Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Jalisco, Ameca-Etzatlan style, Protoclassic period, ca. 100 BCE to 250 CE. An expressive figure with an intimidating pose, hollow-built from pottery and presented with highly burnished surfaces. The intense forward lean of the tall-rimmed barrel armor is carefully balanced upon broad feet, with one red-slipped arm brandishing the upper half of a phalliform club with a conical head, and the other bends in front of the torso with an open hand that perhaps held an implement like a shield at one time. Bulging ovoid eyes with heavy lids, a veristic nose, scowling lips, and tab-shaped ears form the aggressive visage, and a bowl-shaped helmet has a flared finial and black-painted zigzags atop the cream-hued ground. Size: 10.5" W x 13.9" H (26.7 cm x 35.3 cm).
West Mexican shaft tomb figures like this example derive their names from the central architectural feature that we know of from this culture. Jalisco, located on Mexico's southwestern coast, was part of the shaft tomb culture during this time, along with neighbors in nearby Colima and Nayarit. These people would build generally rectangular vertical or near-vertical shafts down from the ground level - usually about 3 to 20 meters deep - through tepetate, the volcanic tuff that makes up the geology of the region, to narrow horizontal tunnels that led to one or more vaulted or rounded burial chambers.
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. Figures like this one were placed into the tombs; researchers believe that they were placed around the edges facing inward, as if in conversation with the dead. Grouped with other figures, and alongside clay bowls, and boxes, figures this one were positioned around the body (or bodies) near the skull, and warriors like this example were meant as a means of spiritual protection from evil spirits.
Provenance: ex-Merrin Gallery, New York, New York, USA; ex-private French collection, acquired in the 1960s
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Repaired from multiple pieces, with resurfacing and overpainting along break lines. Losses to some fingers and lower half of club as shown. Abrasions and fading to original slip, with light encrustations, and scattered areas of fire-darkened pigment. Light manganese deposits and nice craquelure throughout.