Hunched seated figure

100 BCE–200 CE
3 3/4 × 1 7/8 × 1 1/4 in. (9.53 × 4.76 × 3.18 cm)
Arts of the Americas
Ancient Art of the Americas - A. H. Meadows Galleries, Level 4
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott and The Eugene McDermott Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Small carvings of human figures are a common sculptural theme among the various cultural groups of both Central and West Mexico. Lapidary artists favored a variety of precious materials for their small-scale sculptures, including alabaster, obsidian, jade, serpentine, and other varieties of greenstone. This is a fine example of stone carving from Late Preclassic (Late Formative) Colima. This region is known for a wide variety of sculptural styles from multiple cultural groups that inhabited this area of Western Mexico, though it is best known for its distinctive ceramics. It is believed that many of these small-scale carvings were included among funerary goods of the elite.

This figurine depicts a seated figure with hips wide and legs spread. This birthing pose appears in contemporaneous Olmec art often as the embodiment of creation, and, alternatively, the pose is similar to that of bloodletting rituals in Classic Maya art. It is not known whether there may be a comparable association, but this image may also represent transformation—the pose appears very frog or toad-like when viewed from the rear. Considering the human features are only subtlety indicated, this image could thus represent the merging of human and animal characteristics, possibly the transformation into a supernatural form, in which the figure channels the power of such creatures.

Drawn from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1968.20], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1973.29], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1973.30], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • Gallery text [West Mexico], A. H. Meadows Galleries.

  • DMA unpublished material [1973.17].

  • Peter David (P.D.) Joralemon, "Human Mask," in Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico, ed. Elizabeth P. Benson and Beatriz de la Fuente (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., and Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1996), 239.