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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Water Deity (Chalchiuhtlicue)

Date:
15th–early 16th century
Geography:
Mexico, Mesoamerica
Culture:
Aztec
Medium:
Basalt, pigment
Dimensions:
H. 11 5/8 × W. 7 1/8 × D. 5 1/2 in. (29.5 × 18.1 × 14 cm)
Classification:
Stone-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Museum Purchase, 1900
Accession Number:
00.5.72
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
The finely carved figure belongs to a sizable group of kneeling females that display costume elements identifying them as water deities called Chalchiuhtlicue ("she of the jade skirt") in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs. In Aztec religion, the water goddess was the wife of the rain god Tlaloc, an ancient deity that had long been worshipped throughout Mesoamerica. Chalchiuhtlicue symbolized the purity and preciousness of spring, river, and lake water that was used to irrigate the fields. As a fertility goddess, she portrays the Aztec ideal of fertile young womanhood. Most typical of the water goddess costume is the distinctive headdress consisting of multiple thick bands, probably cotton, wound about the head and bordered above and below by rows of balls and two large tassels attached to the sides of the head. In back, the bands are twisted and tied in a prominent knot, the tasseled ends falling over her straight hair. Her clothing is that of a noble woman with a skirt and triangular shoulder cape bordered by a tasseled fringe. The water goddess was closely related to the Aztec corn goddess, Chicomecoatl, who is often also shown wearing this headdress, while holding ears of corn in her hands.
Louis Petich Collection, New York, before 1893, on loan to Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1894–1900

Pasztory, Esther. Aztec Stone Sculpture: Exhibition catalogue, December 8, 1976–January 30, 1977, the Center for Inter-American Relations. New York: Center for Inter-American Relations, no. 6.

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



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