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Female Figure

Artist Culture
Late Postclassic period, c.1200–1521
Wood, plant remains, and pigment
México, North and Central America
Sculpture, wood
Current Location
On View, Gallery 114
20 11/16 x 8 7/8 x 4 5/8 in. (52.5 x 22.5 x 11.8 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Morton D. May
Public Domain
Object Number
The traces of black and blue pigment seen on the headdress and skirt of this extremely rare wood sculpture are indicative of the Aztec goddess of water known as Chalchihuitlicue. The name means “she of the precious jade skirt.” For the Aztec and other Mesoamerican civilizations, jade and other greenstones symbolized the life-giving power of water. Chalchihuitlicue presided over aquatic rituals, particularly in late spring; the plant remains found in the round disc over her chest may be evidence of these rites. Although the stiff pose is typical of Aztec art, the figure’s face is finely modeled. This suggests a dynamic tradition of wood carving that is now almost completely unknown, as many fragile wooden sculptures were either destroyed during the 16th-century Spanish invasion or have decayed through the centuries.
- 1966
Everett Rassiga Inc., New York, NY, USA

1966 - 1978
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from Everett Rassiga Inc. [1]

1978 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Morton D. May [2]

[1] An invoice dated May 27, 1966 from Everett Rassiga Inc. to Morton D. May documents May's purchase, listed as "Aztec wood figure" [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum].

[2] A letter dated September 19, 1978 from Morton D. May to James N. Wood, director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, includes the offer of this object as part of a larger donation [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, December 13, 1978.
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