Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, Protoclassic period, ca. 100 BCE to 250 CE. A hand-built redware pottery sculpture of an incredibly rare form composed of two emaciated canines that are conjoined at the belly. Each dog stands atop a quartet of attenuated legs, as a perky tail, and presents ribs, hip, and spinal bones from beneath the malnourished skin. The raised heads are decorated with several incised striations that surround the discoid eyes and tapered snouts, and a pair of tab-shaped ears flank the flared spout rim atop the head. The attachment between the abdomens illustrates how each dog was formed separately then conjoined and thus explains the lack of a mutual gap between the chambers that would have effectively made the two bellies into one contiguous vessel. Size: 7.25" L x 6.3" W x 4.125" H (18.4 cm x 16 cm x 10.5 cm)
Scholars know of at least two types of Colima dogs, one to be fattened up and ritually sacrificed or eaten and one to serve as a watchdog and healer of the ill. This plump hairless canine known as a Chichi or Escuintla is thought to be related to the Chihuahua or Mexican Hairless also known as the Xoloitzcuintle. The Xolo dog was named for the deity Xolotl, the God of the Underworld, and believed to guide the deceased as they journeyed to the afterlife. Colima vessels such as this one were buried in shaft tombs to protect the deceased and provide sustenance for eternity.
A stylistically similar example of a singular dog, of a monumental size and with incredible incised details, hammered for $37,500 at Bonhams, New York "African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art" auction (November 14, 2013, lot 7).
Provenance: ex-Barakat Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, USA, acquired prior to 2000
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Repair to hind quarters of dog with a tail, spout of dog without a tail, and abdominal joint, with resurfacing and overpainting along break lines on dogs, and adhesive residue along central joint. Loss to tail of one dog as shown. Minor abrasions and nicks to spouts, bodies, legs, and joint, with light softening to some incised facial details, and minor fading to areas of original pigmentation. Light earthen deposits, nice mineral deposits, and great remains of original pigment throughout.