Crouching male figure

300 BCE–300 CE
more object details

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 crouching man with hips wide and legs spread. His genitals are exposed, and he appears to be wearing earspools and a caplike headdress, though further costume details are absent. 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 similar association in this image, but it may represent transformation. When viewed from the rear, the pose appears very similar to a frog or toad. 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.

Elaine Higgins Smith, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.

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.

  • 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  • DMA unpublished material [1973.17].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.