Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. An oddly compelling vessel in the form of a huge insect or arachnid, perhaps a tick based on the shape of the body but with only six legs - maybe artistic license on the part of the maker. The monstrous vessel has a bulbous lower body with a smaller head, with a spout projecting from the top of the head. Small eyes and a mouth with two large pinchers complete a whimsical face. The creature's six legs sprout from just below the face to the front part of the massive ovoid body. Red slip around the ovoid further reinforces the idea that this is a tick, its back end engorged with mammalian blood (which makes you wonder what liquids put into this vessel were meant to represent…). The rest of the body is mainly a lighter orange color, with a rim of red around the neck of the spout. Size: 10.75" L x 5.75" W x 4.9" H (27.3 cm x 14.6 cm x 12.4 cm)
Ticks were endemic to West Mexico; they are widely distributed throughout the New and Old Worlds but are most common in warm, humid climates, like that of the coastal Colima homeland. The interesting question, for understanding the piece, is if it represents a true animal, a mythical creature, or some kind of transformative figure, half real, half myth? The vast majority of figures we find from the Colima and their neighbors in the West Mexican shaft tomb tradition are humans, so we have few animals to compare it to, but it seems likely that it is at least based on a real animal, with some artistic license taken: the monstrous size that emphasizes the horror of a blood-sucking animal, the potentially wrong number of legs, and the depiction of the face, particularly with its human-like eyes.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex Splendors of the World, Los Angeles, California, USA; ex Baker collection, New Mexico, USA
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