Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Standard Bearer

15th–early 16th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz
Sandstone, laminated
Overall: 31 11/16 x 13 7/16 x 13 1/16 in. (80.49 x 34.11 x 33.1 cm) Other: 13 7/16 x 13 1/16 in. (34.11 x 33.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1962
Accession Number:
Not on view
Wearing a simple loincloth tied in front in a prominent knot, this strong male figure is seated on a massive block. The elaborate lashings of his sandals suggest that he is an individual belonging to a high social class, since commoners in Aztec society went mostly barefoot. The facial contours are rounded and soft, and there is a slight frown on the forehead; his mouth is half open as if speaking. His almond-shaped eyes once held inlays. The curved, deeply grooved line across the top of the face indicates the hairline, but the head itself is smooth with no striations to indicate hair. The man's upper body leans slightly forward, and the knees are held close against the chest. His left hand, carved in relief, rests on the left knee, while the right, now damaged, is a hollow fist supported by his right knee. Because of the position of the right hand, the figure has been called a "standard bearer" of the kind often placed at the top of a temple pyramid stairway holding standards tipped with banners.

The sculpture comes from the town of Castillo de Teayo in northern Veracruz, where a temple pyramid and a number of sculptures were discovered in 1903. The sculptures are carved in a provincial version of the metropolitan Aztec style.
Castillo de Teayo, Veracruz, until 1945; [John Wise Ltd., New York, until 1962]

Melgarejo Vivanco, José Luis. Historia de Verzcruz, Jalapa. Vol. 1. Mexico, 1949, p.439.

Seler, Eduard. Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur amerikanischen Sprach- und Altertumskunde. Berlin: A. Asher & Co., 1960.

Easby, Dudley T. Jr. "A man of the people." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 21, no. 4 (December 1962), pp. 133–140.

Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy, and John F. Scott. Before Cortez: Sculpture in Middle America. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, fig. 275.

Nicholson, Henry B. "Major Sculpture in Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico." In Handbook of Middle American Indians, edited by Gordon F. Ekholm, and Ignacio Bernal. Vol. 10, part 1. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971.

Nicholson, H. B. Art of Aztec Mexico: Treasures of Tenochtitlan. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1983, 23, pp. 82–83.

Pasztory, Esther. Aztec Art. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1983, p. 212, pl. 170.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, p. 131, fig. 96.

Watts, Edith. The art of ancient Mexico and Peru: Teachers' packet. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990, p. 19, 19.

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