Seated figure

100 BCE–250 CE
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General Description

The preclassic cultures of West Mexico occupied the modern states of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Colima, where artisans produced a variety of ceramic figures in distinctive regional styles. Of the various styles in Jalisco, the most common is the buffware known as Ameca Gray, typified by large, hollow figures that accompanied the dead in their deep shaft tombs. This example typifies the distinctively Jalisco style, including the bulging and thickly-lidded eyes, the masklike face with its carefully modeled prominent nose, the large mouth with parted lips, and the frontal pose of the figure.

This male figure is especially animated—he sits cross-legged with one knee up and reaches forward with extended arms. A number of figures portray similar poses, which suggests the posture and gesture are regularized, symbolic, and probably magical. Two thousand years ago, the people of western Mexico buried their dead in deep shaft tombs, often accompanied by large ceramic figures of remarkable vitality. The religion of these people seems to have been centered on the shaman, the intermediary between the world of man and the supernatural world. The shaman interceded in the spirit world and defended the souls of men in battles against the powers of darkness. Like a shaman deep in trance, this figure reaches out not only to us but also to his vision in the spirit world.

Adapted from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries.

  • Kathy Windrow, DMA unpublished material, 1992.