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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Ameca-Ezatlán Style : Ameca-Ezatlán Style Jalisco Mother and Child
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Ameca-Ezatlán Style Jalisco Mother and Child - DA.372 (LSO)
Origin: Western Mexico
Circa: 300 BC to 300 AD
Dimensions: 15" (38.1cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta
Condition: Very Fine

Location: UAE
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This Jalisco anthropomorphic figure dates to just before or after the start of the first millennium AD, and represents a mother and her child. The Jalisco cultures of Western Mexico are comparatively understudied compared to the Maya and Olmec cultures, among many others, that inhabited other areas in the region. The reasons for this are unclear, although it is possible that they have been overshadowed due to their lack of monumental architecture.

This, however, has been an enormous oversight because there are few cultures in the Americas or indeed elsewhere that can match the Jalisco for exuberant skill in the production of figurative ceramics. These wares were usually placed in graves, and do not seem to have performed any practical function, although highly decorated utilitarian vessels are also known. It is possible that they were designed to depict the deceased – they are often very naturalistic – although it is more probable that they constituted, when in groups, a retinue of companions, protectors and servants for the hereafter. Many of the figures represent warriors, judging from their apparel and martial stance. These were probably protectors of the deceased, symbolic of actual people who were buried with the deceased as retainers in more sanguineous Central and Southern American societies. Supernatural and more enigmatic figures are also known, presumably representing aspects of Jalisco cultural heritage (gods, spirits, ancestors, mythological figures etc) that cannot be understood at the present time. However, perhaps the best-known style is that of the maternity figure, of which this is an exceptional example.

The figure represents a female, kneeling in a supplicatory position, and grasping her child to her right breast. She is naked to the waist, from which point she wears a glossy white slip-covered ‘skirt’ that is secured by wrapping around her hips. The skin on her torso is a rich, deep, orange-brown, oddly contrasting with the pale, matte skin on her face. The child is also pale and unpainted except for slight overflow of brush-strokes; this is likely to have some significance, as the modeling of the child is much less painstaking than that of the adult. Current theories concerning maturation of children in the Americas suggest that they did not attain any social significance until about 7-9 years of age and out of reach of the usual childhood diseases. Her left hand holds her breast, the other supporting her child. Her expression is solemn, bordering on lugubrious. This is accentuated by her long face, expressionless oval eyes, elongated nose and pursed lips, which yet provide a strange dignity of mood.

Other than her skirt, she wears only an armlet on her left upper arm, disc- shaped ear ornaments and a simple headdress. The shape of her frontal suggests that this is a depiction of an individual with intentional cranial deformation, specifically the fronto-occipital variety. While deformations are not uncommon in ancient American society, they are usually associated with social elites, and while this would not be sufficient to make such a judgment in isolation, the jewellery the figure is also wearing supports such an assertion.

The role of such a figure is uncertain without contextual information. While obviously ornamental and a funerary figure, it is likely to have been involved with some form of invocation for fertility, for good fortune, or for familial stability and/or success. Of course, it may be a portrait of a specific mother, and – as reflected by the difference in modeling – a generic, imagined (future?) or non-specific child. It may also be more widely symbolic, of fertility in terms of agriculture or of climate. In any case, however, it is an astoundingly well-conceived and executed piece of ancient art that would stand out in any collection. - (DA.372 (LSO))


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