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Pre-Columbian & Western Art

Large Human Head

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Large Human Head
500-900 A.D.

Place of origin: Vera Cruz, Mexico
Materials: Clay
Dimensions: Ht: 19.3 cm.
Acc. No. 67.467

This large size human head with broad forehead tapering angularly down to chin, made of natural buff smoothed clay, is a characteristic feature of the art of the people of the Gulf of Mexico during the period from sixth to ninth centuries. Such head-sculptures were modelled in clay but also carved in stone and were added to a grave as its motif. It is said that many people commissioned replicas of their heads in their lifetime itself so that they are installed along their graves after they die.

A highly simplified form in clay's natural shade this head consists of an extra wide and broad forehead, narrow nose with deep nostrils, elongated eyes, small but prominent eye-balls, and as elongated mouth, both eyes and mouth conceived almost like incisions. The most striking feature of the head is its spiked headdress held by a trap. A folded ribbon crests the headdress. Some of the spikes as also part of the right ear are missing the left with its exquisite ear-ornament, a large bold ring, are more intact. This terracotta 'human head', a high level of art expression which characterized the early La Venta Culture, is an index also to understand the distinctive art-trends, in clay or stone, as also the minds of the people of the Gulf of Mexico region.

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