Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, Protoclassic Period, ca. 100 BCE to 250 CE. A hand-built and highly-burnished redware pottery vessel, of a sizable form, depicting a charming canine companion. The pensive pooch sits with a rotund torso atop bent hind legs and extended front legs curved inward, with delineated shoulder blades and a stocky neck, and a thick tail curled up behind the posterior. The large head boasts an amusing visage composed of squinting coffee-bean-shaped eyes, a tapering conical snout with delineated nostrils, a mouth full of bared teeth, tall ears, and a funnel spout rim on top. The vessel is covered in warm vermilion-hued slip which imbues it with an appearance characteristic of ancient West Mexico. Size: 12.1" L x 7.75" W x 9.7" H (30.7 cm x 19.7 cm x 24.6 cm).
The Colima Dog is one of the most enduring and famous symbols of Pre-Columbian art. These puppies come from the shaft tombs of West Mexico, where dogs were believed to assist the dead in their journey to the underworld. Although these dogs are often portrayed as fattened up for the table, they are also sculpted into a variety of playful positions, suggesting that dogs were also close human companions in Colima culture the way they are today for us. This particular Colima dog sits at attention, mouth wide open brandishing a toothy grin, and tail projecting behind his short back legs, ears perked up and eyes looking outwards at the viewer. Anyone who loves dogs knows this expression and the piece demonstrates how important the bond between humans and dogs was even 2000 years ago! This close relationship is reflected in the cosmology of Pre-Columbian Mexican peoples, where one story tells that the first man survived a great flood because of his friend, a dog, who helped him find both corn to eat and fire.
A stylistically-similar example of a slightly-smaller size hammered for $5,700 at Sotheby's, New York "African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art" auction (May 17, 2007, lot 221): https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2007/african-oceanic-and-pre-columbian-art-n08320/lot.221.html
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-private San Francisco, California, USA collection, acquired via inheritance in the 1960s from Harald J. Wagner, California, USA
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Repaired from roughly 12 pieces, with resurfacing and overpainting along break lines. Minor abrasions to legs, body, head, and spout, with light encrustations within some recessed areas, and light fading to areas of original pigmentation. Light earthen deposits and root marks throughout.