Two joined figures

1150–550 BCE
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General Description

During the late 2nd millennium BCE, ceramic female figures were a popular theme among the peoples of central Mexico. They often share a number of characteristics including unnatural limbs and distinctive, sometimes abnormal, facial features. Other physical abnormalities appear in the ceramic tradition as well, such as fused body parts or connected heads on a single body, as in this example, though they are more rare. These figures may relate to the idea of duality, as many scholars have argued; alternatively, such differences may have granted these figures more direct access to the supernatural world.

Though there are a wide variety of types and depictions, these female figures are generally interpreted as fertility figurines. In this example the pelvis and hips fuse together into a central leg of the two female figures, similar to conjoined twins. Some figures indicate social status, through hairstyle and ornamentation as seen here, and many of the figures reflect regional traditions. The distorted body proportions and characteristic narrow mouth and eyes of this figure, for instance, are stylistically similar to the "pretty lady" figures from Tlatilco, an early site in the Valley of Mexico contemporaneous to the Olmec culture. A favorite theme for Mesoamerica’s earliest ceramic artists, these types of female figures probably alluded to hopes for human and agricultural fertility.

Elaine Higgins Smith, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.

Drawn from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1973.52], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • "Female Figure (1983.424)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (August 2009).

  • Rex Koontz, "Tlatilco Figurines," in Khan Academy. Accessed 13 October 2016.