Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Jalisco, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. An enormous example of a shaft tomb figure, this is a standing sheepface female made from thick, red-slipped ceramic. She stands upon flat, naturalistic feet with stylized toes and easily poses on her own, with a broad skirt draped from her midsection down to her ankles. One bent arm holds a petite bowl while resting atop a slight distended abdomen, perhaps an indication of pregnancy, while the other hovers in front of globular breasts. A thick neck supports a large head detailed with a characteristic "sheepface" visage comprised of a thin mouth, pointed ears with perforated earspools, a prominent nose adorned with a simple nose ring, and coffee-bean-shaped eyes - all below an exaggerated forehead. Her necklace, earspools, skirt, and headband are all embellished with chalky-white painted details. With her significant stature and classic features, this is an exquisite example from ancient Western Mexico! Size: 8.75" W x 15.5" H (22.2 cm x 39.4 cm).
West Mexican shaft tomb figures like this one derive their names from the central architectural feature that we know of from this culture. These people would build generally rectangular vertical shafts down from the ground level down to narrow horizontal tunnels that led to one or more vaulted or rounded burial chambers. The geomorphology in the area means that these chambers are dug out of tepetate, a type of volcanic tuff material, which give the chambers a rough-edged look.
Although the dimensions of the chambers vary considerably - some only large enough to hold a single burial and its offerings, others seem designed to hold entire lineages - the placement of burial goods like this figure was very similar. Grouped with other figures, and alongside clay bowls, and boxes, they were positioned around the body (or bodies), near the skull. Unfortunately, we lack the information we would need to understand what these figures were made for - do they represent everyday people, even individuals? Are they religious? Were they created to mediate between the living and the dead? Whatever their purpose, today they are beautiful artwork and reminders of the mysterious past.
Provenance: private Pacific Palisades, California, USA collection; ex-private San Francisco, California, USA collection, acquired in 1970s
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Expected surface wear commensurate with age, with small chips to toes, bowl, fingers, and ears. Minor chips and fading to pigmentation in several areas, otherwise intact and excellent. Great earthen deposits within recessed areas, and beautiful manganese deposits throughout.