Ancient Olmec cultural art enlivens July 14 Heritage auction
DALLAS – From a faraway place in a faraway time, three extraordinary artworks from the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization will be among the top lots featured in Heritage Auctions’ Ethnographic Art: American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Auction July 14. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
“The Olmec art style always was, and still is, a hallmark of the culture,” Heritage Auctions American Ethnographic Art Specialist Delia Sullivan said. “Their spectacular artwork was created in a number of media, including jade, clay, basalt, and greenstone, among others, often portraying human and animal images.”
Olmec lots featured in the auction include:
An exquisite Olmec standing figure, estimated at $75,000-$100,000, made during the Middle Pre-Classic Period (circa 900-300 BCE) from highly desirable blue-green jade with a high polish, it stands 3-1/4 in high. Olmec figures carved in translucent blue-green jade are in high demand, and some survived as heirlooms in later Mesoamerican cultures.
A slightly taller (4-3/4 in) Olmec standing figure, estimated at $30,000-$50,000, is an older artifact from the Early Classic Period (1,200-900 BCE). It features a naturalistically proportioned female with flexed arms and her hands held to her breasts. The face reveals a delightful, happy expression, and the mouth open as though she is vocalizing. The figure is made of cream earthenware with red pigments on the hair, lips, ears, and recessed areas of the body.
From the same time period (1,200-900 BCE) comes a pair of Olmec birds with long beaks and extended legs, estimated at $10,000-$15,000. Carved from Pacific pearl oyster, the birds are mirror images of each other. The short wings and long thin legs suggest a wading bird, such as an egret or heron (the Snowy Egret inhabits the Guerrero coastline of Mexico year-round). A horizontal slot above the body might have been used to attach the birds to a headdress or headband. Fine carving and incisions were used to outline the crests, wings, tail feathers, and details on the bodies. The eyes originally had inlays, probably iron ore. Rulers donned the Bird Monster (Harpy Eagle) headdress and mask and wore feathered capes as symbols of their power and authority. Seabirds such as the frigate, egret, and heron were associated with the sea, fish, and fertility – the Underworld in ancient Mesoamerican thought.
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