Seated Figure, Ceramic, pigment, Olmec

Seated Figure

12th–9th century B.C.
Mexico, Mesoamerica
Ceramic, pigment
H. 13 3/8 x W. 12 1/2 x D. 5 3/4 in. (34 x 31.8 x 14.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
Seated, life-size baby figures are among the most intriguing ceramic works from Precolumbian Mexico. Many hypotheses exist about who they represent: they could be portraits of infants, infantilized portraits of adults, infant forms of deities, or emblems of royal descent. Created by artists between 1200 and 400 BC, these Olmec-style baby figures are white-slipped and hollow. Some portray well-fed children making infantile gestures.

This figure holds a chubby finger to its mouth and is one of the largest and most well known examples. An elaborate headpiece is colored red-pink with powdered cinnabar and red ochre that was probably used to anoint the tomb in which this figure was placed. Most intact Olmec ceramics have been found in burials in the central Mexican highlands. This figure is said to come from the highland site of Las Bocas in Puebla, Mexico.
[Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

Coe, Michael D. and Sophie D. "Pre-classic central Mexico." In The Jaguar's Children. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, 16, also on cover, AR.1999.2.50, MPA archives, exhibition documents.

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. 558.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 164.

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, no. 82, p. 115.

Watts, Edith. The art of ancient Mexico and Peru: Teachers' packet. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990, 13, p. 15.

Coe, Michael D., ed. The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum, 1996, p. 137, 1.

Pillsbury, Joanne. "The Pan-American: Nelson Rockefeller and the Arts of Ancient Latin America." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Vol. 72 (2014), p. 26, 30, 31.