Standing female figure

Tlatilco style
1200–900 BCE
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General Description

During the late second 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, which may have granted them more direct access to the supernatural world. Though there are a wide variety of types and depictions, they are generally interpreted as fertility figurines. In this example the ample hips and legs, full and rounded, convey nurturing abundance. 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, identify this as a "pretty lady" figure 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).