- 900–1300 CE
This standing woman fits within the Classic period Veracruz stylistic tradition. It is attributed to the Huastec region in the Gulf Coast of Mexico, which had a sophisticated ceramic tradition but little is known archaeologically. Veracruz style ceramics usually depict human figures, often elaborately costumed, in a variety of poses. In this sandstone sculpture, the female wears a dress-like garment, necklace, round ear ornaments, and an ornate square headdress decorated with geometric motifs and double-headed anthropomorphic serpent faces in profile that terminate at the ends of her headband. Portrayed in an ecstatic pose with hands raised upward resting at her waist, this could be a reference to a ritual or ceremonial stance.
This primarily low relief sculpture may have been originally used as decorative architectural ornament, either displayed on a platform in the plaza or as a wall facing or door jamb, as the body of the figure is simplified to conform to the unfinished slab of rock. The Huastecs created austere, shaft-like sculptures of male and female supernatural ancestor figures and deities. Young female images such as this are often interpreted as representations of Tlazolteotl, the Central Mexican goddess of sexual love, fertility, childbirth, purification, curing, and filth, the ancestral grandmother of all people who retained all the knowledge necessary for survival. Tlazolteotl derives from the Gulf Coast region and may have originally been part of the Huastec pantheon. She is sometimes depicted old and sometimes young, as in this example. This sculpture is noteworthy because of its monumental scale, as objects of this size from the Huastec region are rare, and may underscore its original architectural function.
Carol Robbins, "Bowl with ceremonially costumed figures (1977.52)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 187.
Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Bowl with ceremonially costumed figures (1977.52)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 41.
Carol Robbins, Label text [1977.52], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.
Carol Robbins, DMA unpublished material [1989.82], 1989.
S. Jeffrey K. Wilkerson, DMA unpublished material [1989.82], 1993.
DMA unpublished material [1970.5; 1973.62; 1973.63; 1973.64; 1989.82].
Mary Ellen Miller and Karl A. Taube, "Tlazolteotl," in The gods and symbols of ancient Mexico and the Maya: an illustrated dictionary of Mesoamerican religion (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993): 168.
"Spouted Vessel (1998.385)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/317890. (August 2009).