Pre-Columbian, Costa Rica, Diquis culture, ca. 1000 to 1500 CE. Skillfully carved from volcanic stone, a rigid peg-based male figure depicted in the nude, perhaps representing a prisoner about to be sacrificed and commissioned by a victorious lord. The figure is delineated with fingers outspread, broad squared shoulders, demarcated musculature, face with pointed chin, drawn lips and lunate, rimmed eyes. Diquis stone sculptures are admired for the abstract, geometric style. Naturally embellishing the stone are attractive dark inclusions. Size: 24.5" H (62.2 cm); 26" H (66 cm) on included custom stand.
About a very similar piece in the Denver Art Museum, their curatorial team writes, " This rigidly frontal sculpture likely once stood atop a chiefly house mound or in the plaza of a town in the Diquís region of southern Pacific Costa Rica. Both male and female figures, always nude, were carved and displayed. Archaeologist Michael Snarskis believed that this example represents a prisoner destined for sacrifice. If so, the sculpture was likely commissioned by a victorious chief and displayed as a symbol of dominance. Stone sphere sculptures carved of hard volcanic stone also served to mark architectural spaces in Diquis sites."
You may be familiar with Diquis spheres, perhaps the best-known stone sculptures from this area which range in size from a few centimeters to over 2 meters in diameter and were sculpted from gabbro, a coarse-grained type of basalt. First 'discovered' in the 1930s when the United Fruit Company was clearing the jungle to establish banana plantations, many were damaged in the process. What's more, legends of hidden gold motivated workers to drill holes in the spheres and blow them up with sticks of dynamite. By the 1940s, legitimate investigation was conducted by Samuel Kirkland Lothrop of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. As recently as 2010, University of Kansas researcher John Hoopes visited the site with the intention of evaluating the area's eligibility for protection as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Countless legends surround Las Bolas including the myth that they come from Atlantis or that the indigenous possessed a poison that was able to soften the rock. According to the cosmogony of the Bribri, these stone spheres are in fact Tara's cannon balls. Tara or Tlatchque, god of thunder, according to the native's legend, used a giant blowpipe to shoot the balls at the Serkes, gods of winds and hurricanes, to force them out of these regions. Perhaps peg figures like this example are associated with the mythical legends surrounding these bolas.
Provenance: ex-private Rosenthal collection, New York, USA; ex-private David Stuart collection, California, collected 1960s
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Professional repairs and restoration over the breaklines - head reattached and knees/feet repaired. Old abrasions/chips on verso. Front of figure shows normal surface wear with abraded areas and nicks/chips to high-pointed areas. Nice dark inclusions.