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figure

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    Am1990,10.1

  • Description

    Carved stone figure of a cihuateotl in kneeling position. Figure wears a long skirt fastened by a knot with bare breasts and delineated nipples. The hair is tightly bound and interwoven in a pattern of concentric circles along the hairline. The crown of the head is inscribed with a glyph indicating the day "1-monkey" in the Aztec calendar.

    More 

  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1400-1520 (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 74 centimetres
    • Width: 45 centimetres
    • Depth: 42 centimetres
    • Weight: 182 kilograms
  • Curator's comments

    From EO3 entry form (A.Shelton) "Metropolitan style, similar to 4 other examples in Museo Nacional de Antropolgia y Historia, Mexico found in centre of Mexico City."

    Cihuteteo were the malevolent spirits of women who died in childbirth and were equated in Aztec religion with the spirits of men who died in battle. This sculpture may once have been part of a roadside shrine, intended to prevent children from the spirits.Text from 'Aztecs' catalogue:

    "Fearsome figures with clenched, claw-like fists, macabre, bared teeth and gums and agressive poses characterise cihuateteo (sing. cihuateotl), the malevolent spirits of women who died in childbirth. The spirits of these brave 'warrior-women' were thought to be the female counterparts of male warriors who were slain in battle or who had been sacrificed. They dwelt in the west (Cihuatlampa, 'place of women') and escorted the sun from its midday zenith down to its position at dusk on the western horizon. The present figure wears a long skirt fastened by a belt around her waist tied in a simple knot, above which her bare breasts with delineated nipples are exposed. Her hair has been tightly bound into an interwoven arrangement marked by a distinctive pattern of concentric circles along the hairline. On the crown of her head is inscribed the glyph '1-monkey', this being one of the days that marked the beginning of a ritual thirteen-day period in the 260-day divinatory cycle (tonalpohualli). The sculpture may once have been part of a roadside shrine. Such images were so placed to propitate marauding anguished female spirits who were believed to pose a danger to young children, since they had been deprived of the opportunity to be mothers themselves. CMcE"

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  • Bibliography

    • Matos Moctezuma 2002 143 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2002 November 16 - 2003 April 11, London, Royal Academy, Aztecs
    2003, Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Aztecs
    2014 April-June, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, "History of the World" PROMISED

  • Condition

    good

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    21 March 1994

    Treatment proposal

    Clean, remove lichen.

    Condition

    Dirty. Some heavy deposits of lichen from display outside.

    Treatment details

    Cleaned and lichen removed with a steam cleaner. Stubborn areas of lichen were soaked with distilled water covered with cottonwool for one hour, then scrubbed with distilled water and a stiff bristle brush.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1990

  • Acquisition notes

    Found in a Scottish country house (see acquisition file); some of William Bullock's collection ended up in the Scottish anitquaries, now the National Museum, and it is just possible that this figure came from the same source (JCHK 9 9 08)

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number

    Am1990,10.1


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Object reference number: ESA32736

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