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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Temple Model

200 B.C.–A.D. 500
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Guerrero, Balsas River region
H. 7 1/16 x W. 6 x D.2 1/8 in. (18 x 15.2 x 5.4 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
Stone models in the Mezcala style come largely from the present-day state of Guerrero, in southwest Mexico. A particularly long-lived tradition, these works may have been produced over some one thousand years, from as early as 500 B.C. Little is known about their archaeological contexts, and there are few points of reference with surviving architecture in the region. It is possible that these models emulate buildings with stone columns, such as those from Cuetlajuchitlán; alternatively they could recall above- or below-ground funerary structures, in which case the columns would represent wood supports of a tomb or a funerary pyre.

Mezcala models may have served multiple functions over time, in keeping with the Mesoamerican custom of repurposing or recarving stone objects. Oblong models, for example, may have been recarved from celts, ritual tools of great symbolic importance. Several have holes drilled into the base, which could have been used to fasten them with fiber to a larger item such as a ritual bundle, a practice widely known in archaeological and ethnographic contexts in Mesoamerica. Offerings of Mezcala stone objects in the Templo Mayor, the sacred center of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, built between 1325 and 1519, underscore the importance of these works as a continuation of tradition, as heirlooms, or as emulations of an ancient style.
[Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1957]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1957, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1978

Ekholm, Gordon Frederick. Stone Sculpture from Mexico. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1959, no. 13.

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. 573.

Schávelzon, Daniel. Las Representaciones de arquitectura en la arqueología de América: Mesoamérica. Vol. vol.1. Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1982, p. 94, fig. 6.

Gay, Carlo T.E. Mezcala Architecture in Miniature. Mémoires de la classe des beaux-arts. Brussels: Académie Royale de Belgique, 1987, no. 49, pp. 138-9.

Jones, Julie. Houses for the Hereafter: Funerary Temples from Guerrero, Mexico, from the Collection of Arthur M. Bullowa. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.

Schávelzon, Daniel. Treinta siglos de imágenes: maquetas y representaciones de arquitectura en México y América Central prehispánica. Buenos Aires: Fundación Centro de Estudios para Políticas Públicas Aplicadas, 2004, pp. 74-5.

Pillsbury, Joanne, James Doyle, Juliet Wiersema, and Patricia Joan Sarro. Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015, pp.46–47, fig. 48.

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