Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. An absolutely stunning example of West Mexican pottery from this dynamic and flourishing artistic tradition. This is a vessel in the form of a turtle, with incised lines marking the feet and giving a diamond pattern to the shell. The turtle's face is a delight, with a slightly-opened mouth and wide eyes. The round spout emerges from the side of the shell. Although the vast majority of known Colima figures are human or dog, they were also keen observers of nature; turtles would have been a commonly-seen animal along the coast; their shells would have been useful resources, and their meat may also have been a good foodstuff. The diamond pattern on the shell may also suggest a beloved pet, a turtle who someone chose to decorate. Size: 13" L x 6" H (33 cm x 15.2 cm)
Clay figures like this one are the only remains that we have today of a sophisticated and unique culture in West Mexico -- they made no above-ground monuments or sculptures, at least that we know of, which is in strong contrast to developments elsewhere in ancient Mesoamerica. Instead, their tombs were their lasting works of art: skeletons arrayed radially with their feet positioned inward, and clay offerings, like this one, placed alongside the walls facing inward, near the skulls. Some scholars have connected these dynamic sculptures of the living as a strong contrast to the skeletal remains whose space they shared, as if they mediated between the living and the dead.
Provenance: Ex NY Coll.
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