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Life-Death Figure

Catalogue Description:
Large free-standing figure of a man on a thin rectangular base. Half circle headdress with incised decoration; conical hat fitting down into a broad headband. Face carefully modeled with decoration running from each eye across cheek. Ear plugs have strap-like pendants that hang down over shoulders. Recessed eyes and deep depressions of the ear spools probably held inlays. Below neck is breast ornament. Broad skirt hangs down to knees with incised textile designs. Densely patterned designs covering the upper arms, hands, abdomen and legs include ears of corn and feline heads and most likely represent tattooing. Elbows bent. Right hand on breast with fingers curling around empty socket, in which a banner or staff may have been inserted. The left hand rests against belt. Depression at the navel was probably used for ritual offerings. Other side of piece is a standing skeletal figure wearing a conical hat adorned with feathers. Arms are full flesh. Incised tattoo designs are on arms and legs. The feet end in claws. Belt and skirt have incised decoration. Figure is in good condition with overall signs of surface wear. Label copy: This sculpture exemplifies the dualism permeating Huastec and Aztec art. On one side, a life-size male figure wears a conical hat, large ear spools, and a skirt tied around his waist. Densely patterned designs, including ears of corn and feline heads cover the upper arms, hands, abdomen and legs - most likely representations of tattooing. The recessed eyes and deep depressions of the ear spools probably held inlays. The deep depression in the navel, the symbolic heart of the figure, was probably used for ritual offerings. The fingers of the raised right hand curl around an opening in which a staff or banner would have been inserted. The other side of the sculpture is dominated by a dramatic skeletal figure wearing a conical hat adorned with feathers and having feet that end in claws. The piece has been interpreted either as a cult statue to the god Quetzalcoatl or as a representation of a Huastec ruler.


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