Pre-Columbian, Gulf Coast Mexico, Veracruz (Vera Cruz), Remojadas, ca. 600 to 800 CE. A beautiful matched pair of mold-formed pottery standing figures in an animated posture with both arms bent and hands raised. Sonrientes, or "smiling faces," are the most famous pottery from this period in Veracruz (known as Remojadas for its keystone archaeological site). The male figure stands nude with exposed genitalia, a tight chest wrap decorated with raised concentric circles, a beaded necklace, and a rectangular headdress with a zigzagging linear motif. The female exhibits more intricate decoration including a knee-length skirt with an elaborate, multi-panel geometric program as well as a grand headdress with lateral fringe and a charming right-facing monkey on the front. Faint traces of orange and pink pigment are visible across both figures and make them a desirable set from ancient Mexico! Custom museum-quality display stands included. Size of largest (female): 11" W x 13.25" H (27.9 cm x 33.7 cm); 13.625" H (34.6 cm) on included custom stand.
Smiling faces are very rare in Mesoamerican art, but in Remojadas and the surrounding area, there are thousands of these Sonrientes figures, leading to a mystery for archaeologists. Some have suggested that the smiles are the result of consuming the alcoholic beverage pulque, or taking hallucinogenic drugs; others see them as representing performers.
For more on Veracruz, please see "Ancient Art of Vera Cruz." Ethnic Arts Council of L.A., 1971. Also see "Ceremonial Sculpture of Ancient Vera Cruz." Hillwood Art Center, Long Island University, 1987, p. 60, no. 69.
A stylistically-similar example of just the male figure hammered for $32,500 at Christie's, New York "Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas including Property from the Estate of Ernst Beyeler" auction (May 10, 2012, lot 40): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/sculptures-statues-figures/veracruz-smiling-figure-remojadas-late-classic-ca-5556872-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5556872&sid=af6285a8-adfa-4991-8caa-6882f5f8b687
Provenance: private Colorado, USA collection; ex-private Florida, USA collection; ex-Artemis Gallery, 2015; ex-Arte Primitivo Gallery, New York, New York, USA; ex-private artist's collection, Virginia, USA
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Both figures repaired from multiple pieces with light restoration, resurfacing, and overpainting along break lines. Both figures have minor abrasions to bodies, limbs, and heads, with softening to some finer details, and fading to original pigmentation. Light earthen deposits throughout.