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Relief with Maize Goddess (Chicomecóatl)

Arts of the Americas

On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, The Americas’ First Peoples, 4000 B.C.E.–1521 C.E.
The importance of maize (corn) and chocolate, two of the many plants native to the Americas, is exemplified by these Aztec sculptures.

The relief panel of the maize goddess Chicomecóatl may have been set into an altar. Chicomecóatl controlled the positive and negative powers of growth and famine. Her elaborate headdress is topped by two ears of corn. In her right hand, she holds a snake-shaped rattle staff, used to penetrate and fertilize the soil.

The man carrying a cacao pod may represent one of the merchants who brought cacao beans from the tropical coastal lowlands to the Valley of Mexico. Chocolate, made from the beans of the cacao pod, was a popular drink in Aztec society.
CULTURE Aztec
MEDIUM Stone
  • Place Found: Mexico
  • DATES 1440-1521
    DIMENSIONS 15 1/2 x 11 3/4 x 3 3/8 in. (39.4 x 29.8 x 8.6 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    EXHIBITIONS
    ACCESSION NUMBER 51.109
    CREDIT LINE A. Augustus Healy Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Aztec. Relief with Maize Goddess (Chicomecóatl), 1440-1521. Stone, 15 1/2 x 11 3/4 x 3 3/8 in. (39.4 x 29.8 x 8.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, 51.109. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 51.109.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 51.109.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Stone panel with relief carving of corn goddess, Chicomecoatl (Seven Serpent). In right hand, she holds a snake shaped rattlestick (chicahuaztli). The tail of the snake may be shaped like a "solar ray" or phallic symbol. Both are thought to represent penetrating and fertilizing the soils. In her left hand, she may hold a plant, or an oztopilin which is a ritual staff adorned with paper flowers. The headdress consists of a headband made by wrapping a cord around the forehead several times. This cord has a border of beads above and below. Two fan-shaped elements on either side of the headdress represent folded amate paper ornaments. Two stalks of corn sit atop the headdress. The figure wears a shawl (quechquemitl) and a typical skirt (cueitl) The figure wears two jade necklaces, anklets possibly made from shell, and wristlets in the shape of the hieroglyph chalchiutl which means "precious stone." The goddess's feet are turned out at right angles and she wears sandals with decorative elements. Relief panels like this were usually set into the walls of temples or altars. Condition: good; some surface wear.
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