Pre-Columbian, south-central Mexico and Guatemala, Olmec culture, ca. 12th to 9th century BCE. This standing Olmec baby holding a hand to his mouth was skillfully hand built in the ancient Mesoamerican tradition. As is characteristic, this hollow terracotta Olmec Baby is strangely mature (though the sex is difficult to determine) and wonderfully expressive. The characteristic babyface visage presents jowly cheeks, thickly-lidded slanted eyes, an open mouth with a slightly downturned were-jaguar upper lip, and an oversized head donning a cap-like coiffure or headdress with a central shell-shaped ornament or lobed section. The head itself is somewhat elongated; scholars have proposed that misshapen heads are indicative of the artificial cranial deformation practiced by the Olmec peoples. His paunchy body presents a pronounced belly button. Nice remains of a cream-hued kaolin and red-hued slip further adorn the piece. Size: 4.875" H (12.4 cm); 5.75" H (14.6 cm) on included custom stand.
The curatorial team at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has this to say about the meaning of Olmec Baby Figurines, "What the babies signify is unclear. They may be representatives of elite lineages or early Mexican deities, or both. Infantile figures appear as sacrificial victims throughout Olmec art, and in some cases the ceramic effigies may have served as substitutes for actual infants. Iconographic and stylistic associations exist between the baby figures and monumental stone sculpture at the Olmec sites of San Lorenzo and La Venta, where the acidic soils of the Gulf Coast have destroyed all but fragments of any similar ceramic sculptures." (https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1979.206.1134/)
Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s
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