Group of three pottery figurines

Mexica*, AD 1325-1521
From Mexico

Many small pottery figurines have been recovered in Central Mexico. They mainly portray females, and in some cases seem to be idealized representations of Aztec women. These examples represent two earth/mother goddesses (Xochiquetzal, on right) and an eagle warrior, a member of a prestigious order of Mexica warriors. Made in moulds, they were mass produced for use in household worship rather than in the more formal temple settings.

Many of the female figurines share similar attributes and are clearly connected with ideas about procreation and fertility. They are usually very simply dressed, with bare torso, a simple long skirt and hair tied up in two buns. They also wear necklaces and ear plugs. The figure on the left wears a beaded headdress and a necklace of maize cobs, probably related to fertility.

Male figurines are not so common but some deities (such as Tlaloc and Ehecatl), musicians and warriors are portrayed. The Mexica had two prestigious orders of warriors: the jaguar and the eagle. The figure in the centre probably represents an eagle warrior, holding a spear and shield. To enter these orders warriors had to demonstrate their military prowess by taking more than four captives in battle.

*The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced Me-shee-ka).

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More information

Bibliography

M. E. Miller and K. Taube, An illustrated dictionary of t (London, Thames and Hudson, 1997)

R.F. Townsend, The Aztecs (London, Thames and Hudson, 2000)

E. Pasztory, Aztec art (New York, Abrams, 1983)

Dimensions

Museum number

AOA St.384;AOA 1856.4-22.46;AOA 1855.12-13.293

ESA2426;ESA35478;ESA37047

Christy Collection (St.384)
Lady Webster Collection (1855.12-13.293; 1856, 4-22.46)

Location

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