Sculpture of a Huastec goddess
Mexico, AD 900-1521
Fertility is a recurring theme in Huastec art, represented by stone sculptures of female goddesses, elderly men and phalluses.
The female figures share similar characteristics, such as a rigid posture, hands over their stomachs, bare breasts, and usually wear a skirt and large headdress. The headdress is generally composed of a rectangular section with a conical cap on top and a fan-shaped crest, as shown on this sculpture.
These female deities are related to Tlazolteotl, an earth goddess also associated with filth and carnal sin. Her name comes from tlazolli, which means 'filth' in Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica (Aztecs), and teotl, a broad term for 'deity'. She was venerated by the Mexica, who conquered the Gulf Coast in the fifteenth century, during the reign of Motecuhzoma I (1440-69).
The Mexica king consecrated a new extension of the Templo Mayor (Great Temple) with a ceremony in which a large number of Huastec captives were sacrificed in honour of Xipe Totec, the god of fertility. Several gods revered by the Mexica were worshipped earlier in the Gulf Coast and other areas, and were added to the Mexica pantheon.
The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica, which is pronounced 'Mé-shee-ka'.
L. López Luján, The offerings of the Templo Ma (University Press of Colorado, 1994)
E.P. Benson and E.H. Boone, The art and iconography of lat (Washington, D.C., Trustees for Harvard University, 1982)
C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
F.F. Berdan and others, Aztec imperial strategies (Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1996)
Height: 150 cm
Width: 57 cm
Depth: 14 cm
Purchased by the Christy Fund