CHALCHIUHTLICUE, WATER GODDESS
AZTEC – Mexico
1300 – 1500 AD
Height: 43 cm - Width: 22.2 cm - Depth: 22.5 cm
Light grey trachyandesite magmatic rock
Former collection Yvon Collet since 1967
Galerie Mermoz collection since 2019
This magnificent sculpture represents the Aztec goddess of water known as Chalchiuhtlicue, which literally means "the one who wears a jade skirt". The quality of the sculptural work is commensurate withthe importance of this powerful divinity and the sensitivity that emanates from this portrait pays her a very beautiful tribute.
Represented seated, in the traditional pose of Mexican woman, she exudes a feeling of great serenity. The whole is wonderfully preserved and sculpted in the round with precision and harmony. The broad hands are placed on the thighs. The round shoulders are extended by curved arms, integral with the body. For the sake of realism, the artist took care to engrave the finger nails, sculpt the wrist bones and indicate the folds of the elbows.
Chalchiuhtlicue only wears a long skirt, called cueitl, which cover her from under the bare breast to the ankles. Her feet, visible at the back, serve as seat. They are contorted, soles raised, heels turned outwards and toes joined under the buttocks. Underneath, a rectangular hollow is carved at the level of the feet.
The delicate face turns its ecstatic gaze towards the sky. The eyes are perfectly drawn and hollowed out. These cavities were probably carefully encrusted with shellfish and obsidian to humanize this effigy. The thin eyebrows meet at the bridge of the nose. The sides of the nostrils are in relief and their outline engraved. The mouth is ajar and the lips are fleshy. The rounded cheeks are generous and the chin is graceful.
Chalchiuhtlicue wears a beautiful headdress covering her forehead and temples. It is maintained by two twisted laces which go around the head. At the back, they intersect to form a flat knot and end up by two strands which hang on a rectangular neck-cover. This headdress refers to the goddess' traditional one composed of several cotton bands wrapped around the head, often accompanied by a matching pleated paper adornment. The large side braided hair with their imposing tassel framing the face are also a distinctive sign that can be found on most representations.
By and large, the sculptor seems to have paid more attention to the face than to the outfit, representing Chalchiuhtlicue in a favourable light of a benevolent goddess who waters men and grows plants. This refined and sensitive representation makes it particularly accessible and full of humanity.