Pre-Columbian, Mexico City region, Aztec (Mexica/Nahua), Post-classic Mexico, ca. 1300 to 1500 CE. A fascinating black stone covered with a thin layer of stucco and painted with a face in profile in the style of the Aztec codices. The face has a huge eye, long nose, and open mouth with teeth. Above its head is a massive headdress complete with four spikes above a large rectangle decorated with interlocking geometric forms. A strand of large beads around the neck and a big spool-shaped earring complete the figure's look. On the sides and back are sunburst and geometric serpent symbols. All of these are done within thick black outlines, with red, blue, yellow, and white pigments. This polychrome surface reminds us of the brightly colored world of the Aztecs, where clothing, architecture, and sculpture were all highly decorated. Size: 1.55" W x 3.25" H (3.9 cm x 8.3 cm); 9.25" H (23.5 cm) on included custom stand.
The Aztecs had a sophisticated writing system, known as Nahuatl (Nawatl). It combined glyphs for syllables/logograms and pictographs of major concepts. The Aztecs used this language to create codices - vast written manuscripts on deer skin - as well as decorate tombs, walls, pottery, and small, portable pieces of art like this one. Tragically, the Spanish destroyed the majority of Nahuatl writing and how the language functioned continues to be debated to this day. The head painted here is similar to several known pictographs, like Ozomahtli (monkey) or Ehecatl (the wind god) but may simply represent an elite individual.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Paul Haig collection, Minnesota, USA
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Repaired at center. This is well done and difficult to see. Small areas of loss to stucco on face and upper corner. Great preservation of pigment and motifs for its age. This piece has not been examined outside of its case.