Female Figure

Date: 12th–9th century B.C.

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Olmec

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 6 3/4 in. (17 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1983

Accession Number: 1983.424


Ceramic figures from central Mexico made during the late second millennium B.C. usually depict women. Commonly described as fertility figurines, their attenuated limbs and occasionally disturbing facial features have been interpreted as abnormalities indicative of special access to the supernatural realm. As there is a wide range of representation and type among these figures, such interpretations are not necessarily exclusive. Certain figurines have details that may indicate social status, such as the earspools and hairstyle seen here, while others clearly relate to Olmec imagery. Most of the details reflect regional traditions in which facial and body treatments can be recognizably precise. The crisp narrow eyes and mouth of this figurine, for instance, recall the so-called pretty lady figures from Tlatilco, an early site in the Basin of Mexico, but the bodily proportions are less distorted than those of Tlatilco figures. A possible source may be further to the south, as the figure is said to be from the site of Las Bocas in the present-day state of Puebla.