Despite its relatively small size, this is one of the most iconographically complex objects known to have been produced by the ancient Olmec. The sculpture is in almost perfect condition, with only minor loss by chipping to the right hand. In the region of the nostrils, mouth, and headdress, there are small stains created by granules of sand. A small quantity of these grains still adheres to the right nostril of the figure. The fine incising was probably the last major step in the carving of the object, since even the final stage of polishing would partially remove the extremely shallow incision. As with many Olmec jades, the incised designs were probably enhanced with cinnabar or hematite stain. Aside from the final, rather sketchy fine line incision, the depths and widths of other carved lines vary considerably. Whereas the facial carving of the crowning trefoil element is relatively shallow, the headband of the larger figure below is in much higher relief. The cross transecting the backward turned headdress is even more deeply and broadly carved. The deep, straight lines of the headband, backcurving head element, and other portions of the statue were not carved by incision, but by sawing. Solid core drills perforated the nostrils and septum of the figure as well as the ears, which are biconically drilled. The corners of both the principal mouth and those of the crowning upper face were also carved by drilling. In addition, drills partially hollowed the areas between the thumbs and palms. Whereas much of the figure is rather blocky and planar, the face is carved entirely in the round, in striking contrast to the surmounting, plaquelike head capping the headdress.
The figure is strongly avian, with a winglike feathered cape, plumed tail, and a series of bird heads incised on portions of the costume. The sculpture displays many quadripartite divisions, possibly references to the world quarters. Great deal of the costume and iconography is devoted to maize, richly expressed by wealth items of precious feathers and jade.
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"Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 6/30/1996 to 10/20/1996.
"Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, 9/9/2005 - 1/8/2006; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, 2/12/2006 - 5/7/2006; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 6/11/2006 - 9/10/2006.
"Flights of Fancy: Birds in Pre-Columbian Art" Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 10/1/2009 - 2/28/2010.
"Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, 10/2/2010 - 1/9/2011; de Young, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 2/19/ - 5/8/2011.
"Lasting Impressions: Body Art in the Ancient Americas" , Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 10/1/2011 to 3/4/2012.
"75 Years/75 Objects", Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, 9/8/2015 to 5/22/2016.