Hunchback Leaning on Staff, Sandstone, Huastec

Hunchback Leaning on Staff

10th–12th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz
H. 35 x W. 5 3/4 x D. 14 3/4 in. (88.9 x 14.6 x 37.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1963
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
The sculpture of the Huastec area of northern Veracruz is distinctly stylized. Here, the fluidly abstract depiction of a figure leaning on a staff might represent old age itself, as it has a lined face, stooped posture, hunched back, and sagging knees. With chin resting on the staff that curves down to end beneath its feet, the figure might be of the Huastec thunder god, Mam, and the staff a digging stick used for planting. The staffs of similar sculptures, however, end in snake heads, raising questions about the specifics of such an interpretation.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1954]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1954, on loan to Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1963; Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978

Medellín Zenil, Alfonso. Exploraciones en la Region de Chicontepec o Huasteca Meridional - Temporada 1. Xalapa-Enriquez, Veracruz: Editora del Gobierno de Veracruz, 1955, pp. 175–77.

Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primtive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, no. 88.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 606.

The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 717.

Schlotterback, Thomas. 5000 Years of Art: An Exhibition from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bellingham, WA: Whatcom Museum of History and Art, 1976.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 149.

Solís Olguín, Felipe. Mexico en el mundo de las colecciones de arte: Mesoamerica, edited by Maria Luisa Sabau Garcia. Vol. vol.1. Mexico: D.R. Primera, 1994, p. 229.