Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Nayarit, San Sebastian style, Protoclassic Period, ca. 100 BCE to 250 CE. A fabulous pair of hand-built and highly-burnished pottery male and female figures, both nude with delineated genitalia between bent legs and seated upon a slender stool which protrudes from their posteriors. The taller male warrior presents with bent arms in front of a broad chest, with one hand holding the shaft of a formidable knob-headed club, and the other holding a small bowl beneath the club handle. The female figure holds sinuous arms against her womb and displays perky breasts beneath rounded shoulders. Each elongated head features a stylized visage composed of coffee-bean-shaped eyes beneath grooved brows, a prominent nose, puffy lips, and tall ears adorned with frilled ornamentation, all beneath a finely-striated coiffure. Faded vermilion-hued slip imbues the figures with a presentation evocative of ancient West Mexico! Size of largest (male): 11.25" W x 13.5" H (28.6 cm x 34.3 cm).
Clay figures like this one are the only remains that we have today of a sophisticated and unique culture in West Mexico. They made no above-ground monuments or sculptures, at least that we know of, which is in strong contrast to developments elsewhere in ancient Mesoamerica. Instead, their tombs were their lasting works of art: skeletons arrayed radially with their feet positioned inward, and clay offerings, like this one, placed alongside the walls facing inward, near the skulls. A large effigy like this one would most likely have flanked the entrance to a tomb in a way that archaeologists have interpreted as guarding. Some scholars have connected these dynamic sculptures of the living as a strong contrast to the skeletal remains whose space they shared, as if they mediated between the living and the dead.
For a stylistically-similar example of a female figure, please see: Kan, Michael, Clement Meighan, and H. B. Nicholson. "Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima | A Catalogue of the Proctor Stafford Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art." Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989, p. 104, fig. 59.
These pieces have been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and have been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: ex-private Collinsville, Illinois, USA collection; ex-private collection of a prominent physician (Dr. Raymond Thomas collection), Arizona & California, USA, acquired before 1980
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Both figures repaired from multiple pieces, with light fill material, resurfacing, and overpainting along break lines. Each figure has minor nicks and abrasions to limbs, body, and head, with areas of fire-darkening mostly on the verso, with light encrustations, and fading to areas of original pigmentation. Nice earthen deposits and manganese blooms throughout. Two drill holes per figure: man with inside of broken neck and behind head, and woman with broken left leg and back of neck.