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Colima Redware Figural Olla - Dwarf Shaman Figure

Pre-Columbian, Western Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A fine example of Colima pottery, simple yet elegant in style, rich in symbolic iconography, and boasting sublime technique! A beautiful redware vessel depicting a shaman wearing a striated facial collar representative of the Sun (as a messenger of the Sun God), with a finely-delineated visage comprised of almond-shaped eyes, a protruding nose, cupped ears decorated with large earspools, puffy cheeks and chin, and arching brows. The depicted figure suffers from a severe case of dwarfism, indicated by the conical hump extending from behind the olla rim, and sits with both hands grasping a pair of bent knees with the head extending outwards as if in a meditative trance-like state. In Pre-Columbian times, the deformities of hunchbacked figures were believed to be signs that these individuals were in fact special, chosen individuals who were touched by the supernatural. Size: 11.5" L x 11.5" W x 11.75" H (29.2 cm x 29.2 cm x 29.8 cm).

Hunchback and dwarf individuals are very common in Colima sculpture - indeed, they heavily outnumber portrayals of women (and some have theorized that this relates to their relatively high social status in the society). Some scholars attribute the hunched back in West Mexican shaft tomb culture to a particular form of tuberculosis; the protruding shoulders and lower spine of this figure may be part of the figure's deformity or the result of an emaciated, shamanic state.

Colima, located on Mexico's southwestern coast, was during this time part of the shaft tomb culture, along with neighbors to the north in Jalisco and Nayarit. In this culture, the dead were buried down shafts - 3 to 20 meters deep - that were dug vertically or near vertically through the volcanic tuff that makes up the geology of the region. The base of the shaft would open into one or more horizontal chambers with a low ceiling. These shafts were almost always dug beneath a dwelling, probably a family home, and seem to have been used as family mausoleums, housing the remains of many related individuals. This is a figure made to be placed inside those mausoleums, perhaps to mediate between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Condition: All sections of vessel repaired from multiple pieces with some resurfacing and overpainting along break lines. Age-commensurate surface wear, small chips to rim of vessel, light areas of roughness along face and base, and some discoloration, otherwise excellent. Nice earthen deposits, mineral deposits, and root marks throughout.

Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private T. Misenhimer collection, Hollywood, California, USA

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