Female Figure


Not on view

This ceramic figurine features a stylized female, nude except for a large beaded necklace and rounded earflares, armbands, and an elaborate coiffure. Hand-modeled, figurines of this type are often female and come in a variety of styles displaying regional characteristics such as the coffee-bean eyes typical of figurines from Chupícuaro. Potters emphasized the faces and heads of these figures while often minimally indicating the bodies, yet it was important to gender the figurines as female by indicating the genitalia. Small ceramic figurines were made by most ancient peoples in Mesoamerica from as early as the second millennium B.C. to the time of the Aztec in the early sixteenth century. They were placed as funerary offerings in burials or in other dedicatory assemblages. Some link the figurines to fertility cults; others view them as companions for the deceased.

In 1951, Nelson Rockefeller bought forty early Mexican figurines including this small female figure from Esther Scheinman of Brooklyn. She introduced herself by writing that she had met Nelson’s father at Joseph Brummer’s, a New York dealer with whom she worked for more than twenty years. While at Brummer’s she had taken the opportunity to buy a number of Mexican ceramic figurines from one of Brummer’s “principal sources.”

Further reading

Darras, Véronique, and Brigitte Faugère. Cronología de la cultura Chupícuaro: Estudio del sitio La Tronera, Puruagüita, Guanajuato. In El Antiguo Occidente de México: Nueva Perspectivas sobre el Pasado Prehispánico, ed. Eduardo Williams, Phil C. Weigand, Lorenza López Mestas, and David Grove. Guadalajara: INAH/Colegio de Michoacan, 2005, pp. 255-281.

Faugère, Brigitte Pretty Face and Naked Body in Context: Meanings and Uses of Chupícuaro Figurines (Guanajuato) during the Late Formative, in Anthropomorphic Imagery in the Mesoamerican Highlands: Gods, Ancestors, and Human Beings, edited by Brigitte Faugère and Christopher Beekman. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2020.

Halperin, Christina T., Katherine A. Faust, Rhonda Taube, and Aurore Giguet, eds. Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indices of Large-Scale Social Phenomena. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009.

Porter, Muriel N. Excavations at Chupicuaro, Guanajuato, Mexico. Transaction of the American Philosophical Society vol. 46, 1956, pp. 515–637.

Female Figure, Ceramic, pigment, Chupicuaro

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