Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A superb, highly-burnished redware pottery figure depicted seated and holding an enormous phallus, all in a lovely two-tone red and orange-red slip. The figure rests with both legs bent, one grazing the ground, the other held upright and supporting the phallic shaft. With his right hand grasping the base of the phallus he supports himself with his left arm extended behind him, with broad shoulders and a thick neck giving him the strength needed to pose in this manner. The figure's stylized head dons a large crested helmet with rabbit-ear flaps adorned by a pair of teardrop-shaped ornaments, all while covering his content visage of coffee-bean eyes, a triangular nose with accompanying ring, pierced ears, and a smile of satisfaction. The bulbous head of the phallus serves as the spout for the vessel, making this an eye-opening example from this ancient shaft-tomb culture! Size: 8.25" W x 7.625" H (21 cm x 19.4 cm).
The sculptural creations of the ancient Colima peoples are quite distinctive with smooth, rounded forms presenting remarkable consistency in their warm russet, citrine, and red hues. In addition, the sculpture of the Colima culture is known for a wide range of postures and expressions, making it quite intriguing to us, even some 2000 years after their origination.
This example, however, deviates from this structured presentation by imbuing the figure with a sense of movement. Typical Colima statues are rigid, static, and presented with relatively expressionless faces. The importance of this figure comes from the twisted posture, the relaxed composure, and the prideful, almost gloating expression on his face as he presents his phallus for others to see. The smile incised across his face gives him a sense of personality and dynamism not often seen in traditional Colima sculpture, so this is a rather significant, substantive, and exceedingly rare example.
Colima, located on Mexico's southwestern coast, was during this time part of the shaft tomb culture, along with neighbors to the north in Jalisco and Nayarit. In this culture, the dead were buried down shafts - 3 to 20 meters deep - that were dug vertically or near vertically through the volcanic tuff that makes up the geology of the region. The base of the shaft would open into one or more horizontal chambers with a low ceiling. These shafts were almost always dug beneath a dwelling, probably a family home, and seem to have been used as family mausoleums, housing the remains of many related individuals. This is a figure made to be placed inside those mausoleums, perhaps to mediate between the worlds of the living and the dead.
For a stylistically-similar example, please see the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, accession number M.86.296.115: https://collections.lacma.org/node/253670
A stylistically-similar example hammered for GBP 13,750 ($18,262.82) at Sotheby's, London "Erotic: Passion & Desire" Auction (February 15, 2018, lot 56): http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/erotic-sale-l18325/lot.56.html
Provenance: private Las Vegas, Nevada, USA collection, collected between 1950 and 1965, thence acquired by current owner via family descent
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Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as expected, fading to slip coloration, minor nicks to feet, phallus, head, and body, with fading to some finer details, and some roughness across base and body, otherwise intact and excellent. Light earthen deposits within recessed areas, and great mineral deposits throughout.