Pre-Columbian, Southern Mexico to Guatemala, Olmec, ca. 1200 to 600 BCE. A large kaolin-slipped earthenware Olmec baby figure seated on a rounded posterior and balancing itself on inward-folded legs and curled toes, its slender, sinuous arms held tightly against its portly abdomen - that bit of extra body fat we endearingly refer to as 'baby fat' interrupted by a slight recessed navel. Sitting with a forward posture and arched back, the flat chest and rounded shoulders are characteristically void of definition. The slightly elongated head boasts an expressive pouting visage comprised of closed eyes, a surprisingly naturalistic nose, puffy cheeks, hemispherical ears, and a protruding bottom lip on a frowning mouth. The domed forehead has a thin, incised band just above the brow line, and coffee-bean-shaped hair nodes are accented with red cinnabar for aesthetic appeal. An exceedingly rare example displaying hallmark Olmec baby facial features as well as expressive attitude and pose. Size: 7" W x 10.25" H (17.8 cm x 26 cm).
The Olmec are famous for their human depictions; as the first major civilization in this fertile area, their artwork inspired the civilizations that came after them to the point where we think some of these later cultures revered Olmec artwork and kept it as heirlooms. Figures of this style are known as "baby face," with plump bodies and chubby, pouty facial features. Infants are a recurring theme from Olmec art, and this one would have likely displayed a much more vibrant kaolin slip coating to match other known examples. The shape of their heads - like this example - have been attributed to deliberate skull shaping. TL from Oxford Authentication Ltd, Oxford, England accompanies. Ref # M213675/07
For an interesting article about Olmec baby figures see "Olmec Babies as Early Portraiture in the Americas" by James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 17, 2015 - https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2015/olmec-babies
Provenance: ex-Powers collection, Pacific Palisades, California, USA, acquired before 1994
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Repaired from several pieces with light restoration and resurfacing along abdomen, above posterior, and underneath one arm; around 95% original material. Age-commensurate surface wear, fading and minor nicks to kaolin slip and red cinnabar, small chips to feet, ears, and head, otherwise very good. Great earthen and mineral deposits and light root marks throughout.