XOCHIPALA – GUERRERO – Mexico
1150 – 900 B.C.
Height : 28 cm - Width : 13.3 cm - Depth : 7.4 cm
Massive brown beige terracotta with traces of black paint.
Former collection Benno Mattel since 1970
Galerie Mermoz Collection since 2010
This beautiful ceramic is a precious testimony to the finesse of Xochipala figurative art, one of the oldest in pre-Hispanic Mexico, which flourished in Guerrero during the pre-classical period. Its workmanship demonstrates the deep sensitivity of the artists of the time and their remarkable ability to capture a gesture, a posture, a momentum of life, with centuries away, has lost none of its youthfulness.
His dynamic pose, his naturalistic proportions, the highly detailed modeling of the facial features and his exceptional size, rank this character among the most beautiful examples of figurines that have come down to us, knowing that the Xochipala, produced more than three thousand years ago by village communities, are rare. Note: most effigies claiming this style measure between 15 and 22 cm. Our character, at the height of his 28 cm, is therefore an extraordinary piece, which can easily be described as an icon.
Standing, legs slightly bent, and arms raised, this asexual but nonetheless masculine character reveals a deep sense of observation in the artist who brought him to life and great attention to anatomical detail. No distinctive attire on this naked man. On the other hand, extensive treatment is observed in the hairstyle and face.
The hair, once painted black, has been carefully engraved with a point on either side of a central parting, and the outline of this detailed hair appears clean and in light relief. The carefully modeled face is also shows striking realism. Arched eyebrows top slender eyes with shaped lids and sunken irises, framing a graceful nose with shapely nostrils. The cheeks are full and the curve of the face is perfect. The ears wear circular adornments that suggest that he embodies a dignitary, perhaps a shaman, in an intense ritual ceremony.
The half-open mouth sports the thin lips and a mustache, an unusual detail which confirms that we are indeed in the presence of a man and which blatantly brings him closer to the figure kept at the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey (hereafter ) who also sports a mustache, to the point of making us think that it could be the same man at different ages
The head rests on a clear neck. The rounded shoulders are extended by two bent arms. The right arm is bent with the hand in front of the face, at mouth height, while the left arm is fully raised, with the hand positioned behind the top of the head, the palm facing the sky. Note the extreme attention and detail given to the hands, each finger has been modeled with great dexterity.
The rest of the body displays harmonious proportions. The artist depicted the chest on the bust and worked the lower abdomen so that it appeared slightly fat. The navel hole is visible. The legs, slightly apart, feature muscular thighs and shins and flat feet with well-defined toes.
Proof of the artist's commitment to his work, the back of the character is made with the same exactness as the face. We thus observe the delicately incised hair, the graceful curve of the neck and shoulders, the volume of the shoulder blades accentuated by the depression of the spine leading to the plump buttocks and finally the bending of the knees.
MANIFESTLY METICULOUS, THE ARTIST HAS NOT NEGLECTED ANY DETAIL, INCLUDING THE RESTORATION OF JOINTS (ELBOWS, KNEES), MUSCLES, Curves AND Folds of the SKIN. THIS IS SAYING THE VALUE THAT THIS REMARKABLE WORK OF WHICH HE WAS BRILLIANTLY CAPTURING FEATURES, EXPRESSION AND POSITION, TO THE POINT OF LEADING US TO IMAGINE THAT IT IS A REAL PORTRAIT.