Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican Formative Period, Mexico, Guerrero State, Xochipala culture, ca. 13th to 10th century BCE. A fabulous hand-built terracotta male ball player standing upon delineated legs, with naturalistic musculature on his thighs and calves. Nude except for a small loincloth, this figure has a slender waist with a stylized navel and rounded, sloping shoulders which lead to a pair of sinuous arms, each with a cupped hand. Almond-shaped eyes, a triangular nose, a parted mouth, puffy cheeks, and a broad brow line comprise the expressive countenance. A plaited helmet with thick side flaps completes the athletic ensemble, and several areas are adorned with light-orange and coral-hued pigmentation. The highly-naturalistic rendering and overall completeness of this figure makes it an exceptionally-rare example from this formative period in ancient Mesoamerica! Comes with custom display stand. Size: 6.75" H (17.1 cm); 7.75" H (19.7 cm) on included custom stand.
The Pre-Columbian ballgame originated in the first millennium BCE, most likely in the Valley of Mexico, and was regarded as not merely an athletic activity but rather as a ceremonial means of controlling or predicting the future. This notion is furthered by how the layout of the ceremonial complex was done according to astronomical observations, which is another characteristic of early Mesoamerican cultures.
The ball court itself was used for playing the ballgame, known as “tlachtli,” in which a rubber ball is used to score points against an opposing team. The field of play was a clearly demarcated area in the center of the arena, with stands for spectators and ballgame patrons lining the longer sides. Some Mesoamerican cultures expected more-adept players to dedicate themselves to practicing and preparing for the game, though others enjoyed forcing prisoners of war to participate in the game.
Some of the most intact ball courts have been found in well-known Mayan settlements in Southern Mexico and into Guatemala. However, some of the earliest architectural remains of ball courts from the Pre-classic period have been found at the archaeological site at La Venta near Veracruz and Tabasco.
Provenance: private Andrade collection, New York, New York, USA, acquired 1960s; ex-Knoedler & Company, New York, New York, USA
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Repairs to both arms with adhesive residue along break lines. Repair to one leg and foot with small losses and adhesive residue along break line and surrounding areas. Expected age-commensurate surface wear, small nicks and chips to helmet, limbs, and body, with light fading to coloration, otherwise excellent. Nice earthen deposits and root marks throughout.