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Lot 0118E
Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Jalisco, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A beautiful hollow-cast pottery figure with a highly-burnished surface, this "pensadora" (female pensador or thinker) is posed with one leg folded beneath a broad skirt and the other bent upwards, with her right arm and rounded chin resting atop her patella, the left bent upwards and holding a small olla of fruit or offerings. Perky breasts and a broad chest emphasize her femininity, with round shoulders and a thick neck supporting her immense head. A prominent nose, recessed eyes with a sad appearance, full lips, slender ears with ornate earrings, and a smooth brow compose her expressive visage, all covered with a simple cap and an ovoid casting hole. Her neck line, abdomen, skirt, and earrings are all embellished with deep red slip atop a cream ground, giving this figure an elegant and not overcomplicated presentation. Size: 7.75" W x 11.5" H (19.7 cm x 29.2 cm).

Clay figures like this example are the only remains that we have today of this sophisticated and unique culture in West Mexico -- they made no above-ground monuments or sculptures, at least that we know of, which is in stark contrast to developments elsewhere in ancient Mesoamerica. Instead, they developed a widely-used method of burial known as shaft tombs.

The dead were buried down shafts - 3 to 20 meters deep - that were dug vertically or near vertically through tepetate, the volcanic tuff that makes up the geology of the region. The base of the shaft would open into one or more horizontal chambers with a low ceiling. These shafts were almost always dug beneath a dwelling, probably a family home, and seem to have been used as family mausoleums, housing the remains of many related individuals. 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.

This is a figure made to be placed inside those mausoleums, perhaps to mediate between the worlds of the living and the dead. However, we unfortunately lack the information we would need to understand what these figures were truly made for. Did they represent everyday people, even individuals? Were they religious? Were they created to mediate between the living and the dead? Whatever their purpose, today they are beautiful artwork and reminders of the mysterious past.

For a stylistically-similar example of the San Juanito style of Jalisco pottery, please see the Museo Amparo, registration number 52 22 MA FA 57PJ 1094: http://museoamparo.com/colecciones/pieza/2152/la-pensadora-mujer-en-actitud-de-reflexion-y-posiblemente-de-enojo?page=10

Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private T. Misenhimer collection, Hollywood, California, USA, famous Hollywood film producer

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Loss to one leg. Figure repaired from multiple large pieces with some light restoration, resurfacing, and overpainting along break lines. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as expected, small nicks to head, face, body, legs, and base, and fading to pigmentation. Light earthen deposits and nice mineral deposits throughout. Nice craquelure to slip in some areas.

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Jalisco Pottery Female Pensadora, ex-Hollywood

Estimate $3,500 - $5,000Jun 21, 2018