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Rare Mezcala Proto-Olmec Stone Standing Figure

Pre-Columbian, Mexico, Guerrero, Mezcala culture (Balsas culture), ca. 700 to 200 BCE. An abstract standing proto-Olmec Mezcala figure, carved and string-cut from a greenstone with rich coloration. Characteristic of Olmec figures, the face of this figure exhibits jowly 'babyface' cheeks and a were-jaguar mouth, a relatively naturalistic nose, slanted eye slits, and a large, domed forehead. There are also perforations through the ears for suspension of ornaments. Scholars have proposed that misshapen heads as we see in this example are indicative of the artificial cranial deformation practiced by the Olmec peoples. Carlo Gay, a respected authority on Mezcala sculpture, writes about three lithic traditions that "had direct or indirect contacts with the Mezcala as exemplified by technological, thematic, and stylistic similarities": those of Chontal, Teotihuacan, and the Olmec "whose cultural remains have been found in nearly all of eastern Guerrero, including the Xochipala Basin in the Mezcala enclave." (Gay, p. 210) Size: 9" H (22.9 cm); 9.75" H (24.8 cm) on included custom stand.

The body presents distinctive openwork, space between the arms and legs, which is relatively rare for Mezcala figures and represents a conceptual and technical advancement in the ongoing attempt to achieve a more naturalistic human image in stone. Note also that the ovoid shape of the eye sockets, smoother nose, as well as definition of fingers of hands (more visible on the right hand) are characteristic of even more advanced forms of the M-24 variant.

For a similar example see, Gay - page 210, plate 249 and 250 (photos originally from the Miguel Covarrubias archives). As Gay notes, in addition to being consistent with Mezcala figures of the M-22 and M-24 types (page 210 plates 246-248 in Gay), the elongated and ritually misshaped head also has counterparts with Mezcala figures (plate 54 in Gay).

cf, Gay, C. and Pratt, F. 1992 "Mezcala: Ancient Stone Sculpture from Guerrero, Mexico", Balsas Publication, Switzerland. PP 210-211.

Condition: Forearm of figure's left arm reattached. Chips to mid-section of right arm. Losses to slab ears with loss to perforation of one ear. Normal surface wear commensurate with age. Nice earthen and mineral deposits across the surface.

Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s

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