STANDING FIGURE OLMEC
VERACRUZ - Mexico
900 – 600 BC
Hauteur : 19,6 cm - Largeur : 7,2 cm - Profondeur : 3,8 cm
Jadéite vert clair à patine brune
This standing figure is a masterpiece of Olmec art. It is similar to the famous filiform statuettes found at the sanctuary of La Venta, one of the most important Olmec ceremonial centers. Its remarkable sculptural qualities and the beauty of its polished stone indicate its great value, which is also confirmed by the artist's choice of a magnificent light green jadeite.
Jade was as important for the peoples of Mesoamerica as gold was for the Incas of Peru, jadeite was a rare rock, coming from deposits far from the Olmec metropolitan area. Particularly hard and demanding to work, it also required the intervention of the most experienced lapidary artists, which undoubtedly contributed to make it particularly valuable.
On the symbolic level, its green and blue tones and its luminous reflections have also made this stone a very strong symbolic support, associated with Nature and Water and invested with virtues related to fertility and rebirth. Considered as magical, jadeite was dedicated to the manufacture of funeral offerings, ritual and ceremonial objects and ornaments for dignitaries.
The character here displays, by the general delicacy of its features, the dexterity and sensitivity of the sculptor. He has succeeded in renderingthe volumes of the body with a great accuracy, without going into excessive detail.
The head is the focus of attention. It adopts the typical features of the "Olmec face", recognizable by an elongated and domed head, the result of a ritual deformation, marked superciliary arches, slanted eyes, a powerful nose with dilated and pierced nostrils, full cheeks and finally a mouth with fleshy lips and downward drawn corners, with a raised upper lip and a curved and hemmed lower lip.
These characteristics can be interpreted in different ways, without one excluding the other. They may be ethnic features specific to the Olmecs or the manifestation of what this people considered an ideal of beauty or the expression of their beliefs, transcribed in stone. The features of the "Olmec faces" evoke those of the jaguar, a mythical animal,
as considered a true deity, and catalyzing several cults related to corn and rain.
This characteristic indicates a desire to assimilate man and the sacred animal. According to the scholars,this "fusion” wouldaim to signify the divine nature of an individual, usually a shaman or a dignitary.
It is worth noting that figure’s nostrils are pierced, as the earlobes, which were perhaps once used for ornaments.
slender body is worked with care. The finishing and polishing of the stone are impeccable, proof of the artist's talent, Since, in Mesoamerica, at that
remote time, metallurgy was not known and the limited variety of tools that were only made in stone.
The rounded shoulders are drooping. The muscular arms are straight and spread out from the body, the closed hands positioned at the level of the hips. The fingers are represented by fine incisions, as are the toes. On the lower abdomen, the
, barely visible outline of a sex cover can be seen. The torso is naked and the pectoral muscles slightly bulging.The back is globally flat. The curve of the buttocks can be seen, underlined by a fine engraving. The legs are very slightly bent and the feet slightly raised. The reverse side allows us to appreciate the curved shape of the head obtained by exerting continuous pressure, probably from birth when the bone structure is still malleable.
The exact meaning of this custom, which is found all overthe world, is unknown. It is likely that it is a social marker, allowing the members of a clan to be differentiated and identifying people of the same rank or status. This deformation must also have had an aesthetic and symbolic aspect. Among the hypotheses formulated, it is often evoked the resemblance with the grain of corn, the vital and sacred plant, object of an intense cult throughout Mesoamerica which perhaps “took shape” - in the literal sense of the term - in this way, by the manipulation of the head, seat of the soul and the conscience.
This practice would also have a link with the jaguar, the tutelary divinity, strongly associated with the coming of the rain and therefore with the growth of
the corn. Thus, this type of human statuettes, imbued with elements related to the animal and the sacred plant, could materialize the primordial osmosis of humans and nature, and manifest the interdependence between each form of life in pre-Columbian thought.