STANDING FIGURE

MEZCALA - Mexico

350 - 100 BC

Height : 20.5 cm - Width : 6 cm - Depth : 4.6 cm

Speckled green diorite

Provenance

Former collection Henry Planten since 1968

Galerie Mermoz Collection since 2020

 

This magnificent figure is a beautiful example of the lithic art of Guerrero, a mountainous region in Western Mexico considered to be one of the cultural cradles of Mesoamerica and a prodigal land for the late pre-classical sculptors who found deposits of highly sacred green stones there.

Worked with care in a beautiful polished diorite, it is a sculptural achievement and a precious work on a symbolic level, a silent guardian of the memory of ancestral peoples, deeply connected to their ancestors and to the spirits of the Earth and Nature in general.

With an introverted and penetrating expression, this figure stands upright, with its hands clasped on the chest. The narrow shape of its skull indicates a ritual deformation, a widespread practice in Mesoamerica among the dominant social classes that showed their noble status.

Its eyebrows, sculpted in slight relief, are thick and rectangular. The "coffee bean" eyes are closed. They are identified by a fine groove and closed eyelids. Slight hollows above and below accentuate their volume. The nose is triangular with a soft ridge and a wide tip. The closed mouth is also a groove. The cheeks are flat and the lower face harmonious. The ears, long and thin, are identified by a redent at the temples.

The shoulders are drooping and the arms are held to the body. Only the forearms have been carved in relief. Hugging the round belly, they converge towards the plexus in a gesture of meditation. We can guess that the hands may be clasped, although they are not apparent. 

Under the arms, the chest tightens and the hips are slightly indented. The legs are somewhat arched, separated by a narrow but deep notch. On the reverse side, the skull and back are perfectly flat. On the other hand, the artist has sculpted the nape of the neck and accentuates the buttocks.

Buried under a dwelling or in a votive deposit, this statuette, which seems to have fallen into an endless slumber, was probably intended to accompany the soul of a deceased person and to maintain constant communication with the invisible powers.

 

In Mesoamerica, regardless of the time, people believed that everything around them, including "inanimate" objects, were sentient and interconnected, even beyond death. They also believed that nothing could be obtained from the creative forces - such as the fertility of the soil and the rebirth of souls - without something being offered in return, in a perpetual give-and-take logic. Ritual and funerary offerings served this purpose, to honour ancestors and deities and no doubt intercede on behalf of the community of the living for the continuation of natural cycles, the fertility of the soil and ultimately the survival of mankind. 

Their religious significance sheds light on the almost systematic choice of green stone for their creation. In pre-Columbian thought, the appearance of these rocks - their colour, their reflection - evoked water, nature and by extension, renewal. They were therefore reserved for works of worship, sculpted and patinated with the utmost care, as one would do with a magical object.