Pre-Columbian, Gulf Coast of Mexico, Veracruz culture, ca. 500 to 700 CE. A massive ceramic standing figure, depicting a female shaman figure with a caiman headdress. The woman wears an elaborate piece of clothing - a skirt that flows to the floor, with her feet peeking out underneath it. Above that, several strips of applied clay connect to a high waist band. She also wears flaring, three-dimensional sleevecaps, and ropelike strips of clay wrap around the shoulders and form decoration on applied squares of clay that cover her breasts. Thick armlets and bracelets complete the decoration on her body. Her hands are held upright. Size: 17.5" W x 28.25" H (44.4 cm x 71.8 cm)
Her head, large relative to her body, is slightly tilted up, her mouth open as if she is declaring something. She wears huge spool earrings and her headdress is the upper part of an alligator or caiman's head and jaw, with the fierce teeth framing her forehead. Thick black pigment decorates her upper body, armlets, irises of her eyes, and forms a thick square around her mouth and covering her chin. The face and ear spools of this figure look similar to a sculpture from El Zapotal, an archaeological site south of Veracruz city that consists of a mound covering a shrine dedicated to the Lord of the Underworld, full of life-sized, hollow clay sculptures.
The large scale, hand-modeled figures from Veracruz are known as Remojadas, from the region in Mexico where they are found. They are usually portrayed with their arms up and most are female, as with this figure. They are made in parts, with the head added to the body using further clay that is smoothed over the neck line. Excavations revealed two types of impressive, detailed pottery figures from the Veracruz area: the Sonrientes, the joyous "smiling faces", and figures like this one, more serious, mostly adult figures, with elaborate costumes, themes, and sometimes props that all seem to point towards religious or political ceremonies. These figures are often found with the bodies smashed into pieces and the heads largely intact - they were ritually destroyed as burial offerings. Their clothing suggests that they depict people of import in society, maybe priests or nobility.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: private southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s
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Repaired and restored from multiple pieces. This is very well done and difficult to see. Upper part of the skirt may have some losses along it. All black pigment appears to be original.