Height: 37.000 cm
Width: 20.000 cm
AOA St 373
Room 27: Mexico
Stone sculpture of Chalchiuhtlicue
Mexica*, AD 1325-1521
The water goddess
This stone sculpture represents Chalchiuhtlicue, the Mexica water goddess. Chalchiuhtlicue means 'she of the jade skirt' in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Mexica. She was associated with the spring water, rivers and lakes. According to an Mexica creation myth Chalchiuhtlicue presided over the Fourth Sun. There were four suns or worlds before the present one, each of them destroyed and created in a different way. The forth sun was destroyed by floods and its people turned into fishes.
There are numerous representations of human figures in Mexica sculpture. Most of the female figurines show distinctive characteristics that identified them as fertility goddesses. They are always represented as young women, with their hair arranged in two large tassels on both sides of the head. In this case, a bow made of pleated bark paper (amacuexpalli), commonly displayed by fertility deities, complements the headdress. She wears the traditional shawl (quechquemitl), also trimmed with tassels, over a long skirt.
The sculpture was illustrated by Alexander Von Humboldt. He saw it in 1803-4 in the possession of Guillermo Dupaix, a collector of Mexican antiquities. The sculpture was later acquired by Henry Christy, who visited Mexico in 1856.
*The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced Me-shee-ka).
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)
C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)