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Expressive Nayarit Pottery Seated Old Woman

Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Nayarit, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A fascinating and unusual pottery figure of an older woman. She is portrayed seated, with her arms under her breasts and resting on her knees, which are drawn up in a pose that to the modern eye looks like one of attentiveness or listening. She is portrayed nude aside from jewelry - a large nose ring and many layers of earrings - and a rounded, smooth cap. Incised lines give her obvious genitalia, fingers, and toes. Her body is painted with a profusion of long black lines on a red background, with a long, thin, white line forming a belt. Her back is sculpted to have prominent ribs and spine, which is a common way for older people to be depicted in this artistic tradition. Size: 4" L x 3.75" W x 7.9" H (10.2 cm x 9.5 cm x 20.1 cm)

Clay figures like this one are the only remains that we have today of a sophisticated and unique culture in West Mexico - they left few above-ground monuments or sculptures, at least that we know of, which is in strong contrast to developments elsewhere in ancient Mesoamerica. Instead, their tombs were their lasting works of art: skeletons arrayed radially with their feet positioned inward, and clay offerings, like this one, placed alongside the walls facing inward, near the skulls. Some scholars have connected these dynamic sculptures of the living as a strong contrast to the skeletal remains whose space they shared, as if they mediated between the living and the dead.

Condition: One leg has been repaired, and a probe hole on the lower back has been repaired and overpainted. Fine remaining pigment. Fine manganese deposits.

Provenance: private collection of the late Peter Arnovick, San Francisco, California, USA

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