Olmec art is notable for its monumental carving and sculpture, portrait masks, and ceramic sculptures of animals and figures, but ultimately it is the human form that is its singular portrait of divine power and earthly authority. Small portable sculptures such as this seated greenstone figure, embody important themes through the canon of posture and gesture.
This corpulent figure shows the characteristic stocky form seen on figures from the Puebla region, including the well-known large standing lord wearing a loincloth (Benson and de la Fuente 1996:208, cat. no. 47, see also cat. nos. 67 and 68). The cross-legged position is a characteristic format of seated rulers. The hand position of right above left, clasped to the chest in a protective fashion, is a particularly iconic gesture indicative of the ceremonial and reverential behavior intricately linked to sacrificial duties and an assertion of authority. This gesture is used to hold two different objects of importance, the sacred bloodletters and oblong scepters. Without actually holding either of these objects, this figure references the responsibilities of both the religious priest and the political ruler (Joralemon 1996:270; see Benson and de la Fuente 1996: cat. no. 110 for the Kunz axe, and cat. no. 51 for the small La Venta female figure).
The masterful carving of the head and face show classic Olmec features seen on masks of the Rio Pesquero style, with full downturned mouth, rounded cheeks and narrowed eyes. The only indication of adornment are the finely pierced ear lobes for the placement of high status ear ornaments. The figure shows traces of red cinnabar pigment deeply embedded within the nostrils, pierced ears and mouth, further enhancing the overall quality of this important seated figure.