Offered by Galerie Mermoz
This magnificent warrior is a superb example of the funerary art of shamanic cultures in Western Mexico. It comes from the region of Jalisco and more particularly from the workshops of the lake region of Ameca which gave its name to the Ameca style, characterized in particular by elongated and prognathal faces.
Though impassive, it contains a strong energy, both in its expression and in its posture, which testifies to the sensitivity and dexterity of local craftsmen-ceramists. Such a realisation, extremely worked, can only be the work of an outstanding potter, mastering on the fingertips the techniques of modelling clay and its firing.
2000 years later, this sculpture is still there, thanks to centuries of burial in a well grave, a type of burial proper to Western Mexico, consisting of a long tunnel and several burial chambers. Among many other offerings, this character acted as a guardian, charged with defending the home and soul of a high-ranking deceased from the hostile forces of the underworld so that he may safely reach the kingdom of spirits and join the community of his noble and venerable ancestors.
It is assumed that it was also deposited as a gift to supernatural powers in order to obtain protection and fertility for the living community. If we see in him a work of art, he was above all for his contemporaries, a full-fledged actor of religious and ritual life, endowed with real powers. Above all, it is the touching manifestation of an «Art of Believing».
Firmly encased on his two stocky legs, he spreads and raises his two arms, in a dynamic attitude, ready to counter anyone who comes to disturb the rest of the deceased. The style is naturalistic although the rendering shows at the same time a great freedom in the interpretation of the body and its proportions. The realism and individuality of this character makes it possible to think that it is a portrait.
His left arm carries a rectangular shield at the height of his face, his right arm holds a short spear with a point. The whole body is massive, especially the feet, very wide, with heels stretched too far back. The shins are prominent and the knees very high, so that the thighs are almost non-existent. The torso is compact and the arms muscular. Fingers of hands and toes of feet faithfully rendered.
The eyes are elongated, the eyelids are shaped just like the pupils painted black. The importance given to this look and the exaggeration of the pupils reflects well the state of awakening of the warrior on alert, determined to block the evil spirits. The nose is strong and pointed, just like the chin in galoche. Its nostrils are hollowed out. The mouth is closed and the relief of the lips is present. The imposing ears are prominent and their orifice is pierced to let the air escape allowing the clay not to break during cooking.
The face, rather emaciated, is decorated with black facial paintings, triangular in shape, which radiate from the nose on the forehead and cheeks. The eyes and mouth are also made up in black. The head is covered with what appears to be a cloth cap. Four cords encircle the skull, held together by a decorative element at the top, just above the forehead. The man wears only a loincloth, originally painted in light brown. At the back, the artist has stylized the tip of the fabric. A detail, among others, that attests to the time devoted and the care taken by the artist to this offering, and therefore of its very great value.
The theme of the warrior is abundantly illustrated in Jalisco art. It was found that many of these armed men were looking to the left, associated with evil and the coming of danger in many cultures, especially among the Huichol Indians. Anthropologist Peter Furst, who studied the traditions of Western Mexico at length, concluded that these effigies probably represented shaman guardians.
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