Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Michoacan area, Tarascan culture, ca. 1200 to 1524 CE. Hand-carved from a dark volcanic stone, this is a figure of a man with a relatively large head and a stylized body. The eyes are wide and round, located on either side of a prominent, triangular nose. The mouth is also wide and round and the face has a clear groove below the cheek line that delineates the lower and upper halves; maybe this refers to a style of tattooing or scarification practiced by the Tarascans. Below the head, the body simplifies: an undecorated torso and legs that are delineated by a groove. The hands meet at the waist, holding the figure's tumescent phallus. Remains of a vermillion pigment, probably cinnabar, can be found in the natural pits on the stone's surface, especially on the top of the head. Comes with custom stand. Size: 6.75" W x 16.75" H (17.1 cm x 42.5 cm); height on stand: 17.3"(43.9 cm).
This figure has the rounded style and upturned face that distinguishes the Tarascans from their contemporaries the Zapotecans and the Aztecs. Anthropologists and archaeologists have interpreted the upturned face as a means of expressing adoration, probably for a god. Was this figure carved to be in a temple? Or was it made to adorn one of the elite graves buried in shafts dug into the distinctive rounded Tarascan pyramids, the yacatas? Its mysterious face gives us much to ponder.
Provenance: ex-Private Kentucky Collection; ex-Private Los Angeles Collection, acquired in the 1970s.
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