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Male Figurine

Arts of the Americas

The Olmec civilization (1400–400 B.C.E.) of Mexico’s Gulf Coast region produced small, portable figurines intended for ritualistic purposes. These three works display the characteristic Olmec sculptural features of a drooping lip and an elongated, flattened head. The winged figure and felsite figurine reflect the Olmec tradition of merging human and animal traits. Such composite forms relate to the ability of shamans, or ritual specialists, to transform themselves into animals. The wings represent those of a bat, associated with the darkness of the underworld. The figurine’s bushy tail and cap with feline ears suggest a jaguar, a sacred animal revered for its power. Jadeite and felsite were not native to Olmec ceremonial centers. Challenging to acquire and laborious to carve, they were valuable materials. The winged figure’s discovery in Costa Rica indicates the reverence for Olmec carvin
MEDIUM Jadeite, cinnabar
  • Place Made: Veracruz, Mexico
  • DATES ca. 800–500 BCE
    DIMENSIONS 2 x 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. (5.1 x 1.9 x 8.9 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair Bradley Martin
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Small, carved figurine of a standing man with drooping lips and an elongated, flattened head with a curved, vertical headdress. There are incised geometric designs at the back of the head. The arms are bent with hands over stomach. Residue of red pigment visible in carved and incised areas of face and body. Condition: both legs are broken and missing.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Olmec. Male Figurine, ca. 800–500 BCE. Jadeite, cinnabar, 2 x 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. (5.1 x 1.9 x 8.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair Bradley Martin, 51.197.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 51.197.2_bw.jpg)
    IMAGE 51.197.2_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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