Seated "hollow baby"

1200–400 BCE
more object details

General Description

Hollow pottery baby figurines are a common theme in Olmec art, where they represent the capacity of kings to regenerate life out of death. They are known as baby-face figurines because they exhibit plump bodies and facial features similar to an infant. They are normally depicted in a seated position, with arms raised and legs spread, and nude with no indication of gender. Other common features include almond-shaped or small slit-like eyes, a large sloping forehead that may indicate cranial deformation, and a merging of human and animal traits that may refer to the were-jaguar motif, a human-like figure with a down-turned mouth, cleft head, and almond-shaped eyes. Massive stone thrones found in the Gulf Coast Olmec centers of San Lorenzo and La Venta depict kings holding supernatural "were-jaguar" infants. Perhaps hollow baby figures such as this one were used in rituals.

Drawn from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1971.40], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • "Olmec Baby-Face Figurines." In Khan Academy. The British Museum, 2015.

  • "Baby Figure" [Mexico; Olmec]" (1979.206.1134) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006).

Web Resources

Khan Academy
Read more about Olmec baby-face figurines.