239
239

PROPERTY OF THE ALBRIGHT-KNOX ART GALLERY, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, TO BENEFIT THE RESTRICTED ENDOWMENT FOR THE ACQUISITION OF WORKS OF ART

An Aztec Stone Figure of the Goddess with the Tasseled Headdress, known as Chalchiuhtlicue
ca.  A.D. 1400-1521
Estimate
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 1,216,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
239

PROPERTY OF THE ALBRIGHT-KNOX ART GALLERY, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, TO BENEFIT THE RESTRICTED ENDOWMENT FOR THE ACQUISITION OF WORKS OF ART

An Aztec Stone Figure of the Goddess with the Tasseled Headdress, known as Chalchiuhtlicue
ca.  A.D. 1400-1521
Estimate
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 1,216,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art

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New York

An Aztec Stone Figure of the Goddess with the Tasseled Headdress, known as Chalchiuhtlicue
ca.  A.D. 1400-1521

standing resolutely with the raised hands cupped and once holding staffs or perishable ceremonial objects, wearing a skirt or cueitl, and beaded headband secured by knotted ties hanging down the back of her head, adorned with long, full tassels by each ear, her serene expression marked by a long deeply recessed groove on each cheek, an insignia of the water goddess, and with similar recess on the chest for inlay of shell or semi-precious stone, her fingers and toes carefully carved perhaps for additional inlay; in gray basalt with extensive remains of red pigment overall.


height from base 20 in. 50.7 cm
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Provenance

Charles Ratton, Paris
Collection of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, No. 37:7.1, acquired from the above in 1937

Exhibited

Cambridge, MA, Fogg Art Museum, Pre-Columbian Art, 1940, Cat. No. 12
Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts, Ancient American Art, 1953
Columbus, Ohio Historical Society, Latin American Art, 1957
New Haven, Yale University  Art Gallery, Painting and Sculpture from the Albright Art Gallery, 1961

Literature

“Sculpture at Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery," Magazine of Art, Vol. 31, Feb. 1938, p. 92, illus.
Art News, Vol. 36, No. 29, April 16, 1938,  p. 16
André Malraux, “Janus,” Art News Annual, XXII, 1953, p. 95, illus.
School Arts, vol. 61, no. 3, November 1961, p. 33, illus.
H.B. Nicholson, “An Aztec Stone Image of a Fertility Goddess,” Baessler-Archiv, XI, 1963, p. 15, illus.
V. Kavolis, Art and Aesthetics in Primitive Societies, 1971, p. 225, illus.
Steven A. Nash, with Katy Kline, Charlotta Kotik and Emese Wood, Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Painting and Sculpture from Antiquity to 1942, Buffalo, New York, 1979, p. 124

Catalogue Note

According to the acquisition notes and letters from Charles Ratton, the sculpture was owned by Eugene Goupil, a French collector well known for his Mexican manuscript collection (gifted to the Bibliothèque nationale in 1898). He added to his Pre-Columbian collection by acquiring a large portion of the inventory of Eugene Boban, an avid dealer of ethnographic material, antiquities and Pre-Columbian art. The Albright-Knox acquisition of this figure was well documented in 1930s correspondence with scholars of the day, including Herbert Spinden at the Brooklyn Museum and Frans Blom at Tulane University, Department of Middle American Research.

The Goddess of the Tasseled Headdress, known as Chalchiuhtlicue, is associated with water and described as the wife, consort or sister to the powerful rain god Tlaloc. Tlaloc and Chalchuihtlicue are the core of cult rituals described as early as the 16th century by Sagahun. Specific religious festivals were dedicated to these deities during seasonal agricultural cycles. 

Chalchiuhtlicue, 'she of the jade skirt,' is one of the key female deities of Aztec mythology, representative of water, sea, and agricultural fertility. Chalchiuhtlicue’s strength and influence resided as well in her occasional malevolent power, as she is also known as the fourth sun ('Four Water') in the cosmogenic legends of the four previous world periods, each ending in a calamity of nature. Paying homage to her was essential; she was invoked in pregnancy, childbirth and for the bathing rituals of newborns.
Complementing Tlaloc's thunderous side, she is associated with the restorative and nourishing elements of gentle ground water and rivers. She is usually depicted in the submissive kneeling position, and her standing posture on this example is a distinctive feature, as are her deeply incised cheeks, which would have been filled with stone or shell, further enhancing her depiction of a woman of noble birth and her symbolic importance.

She is closely connected to the larger cult of fertility and specificially to corn or maize. Nicholson (1963) points out that the female maize deities (known variously as Chicomecoatl  'Seven serpent,' Centeotl  'Maize deity,' Xilonen 'She of the tender maize ears,' and the related water goddess Chalchuihtlicue), share the two distinct insignia: the large tasseled ornaments, and the incised cheek slots. 'Symbol sharing' (ibid: 10) is a characteristic of the fertility deities, the exchange of diagnostic traits gives the deities an all encompassing role of sustenance, through the essential elements of water and maize.

The bold facial stripe, either single or double, is best known in the painted codices depicting the water goddess, particularly the Codex Borbonicus (ibid: 13-15 for specific codex references). Similar stripes in blue and black are known on facades of Tlaloc temples as well. The stripe (or recess) may represent a tear path; it could also be an abbreviated aspect of the Tlaloc goggle eyes, a simplified form of the entwined serpents ringing the eyes of the rain god. A seated Chalchiuhtlicue figure with double grooved cheeks is in the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde (von Sydow 1932: p. 419 illus, pp. 87 and 574). 
Aztec art celebrates the human spirit and body in a distinctly formal and idealized form, essentially capturing the qualities inherent in everyman or woman. While portraits of individual rulers may have been destroyed by the Spanish, it is possible very few were even created. The priest or ruler exercised his power and role by transforming into a deity through costume and gesture. Stone sculptures, and smaller votive pieces show the reliance on the tenets of specific posture, hand gestures, facial expressions and accoutrements, and these sculptures become the mediator between the people and their gods (Moctezuma and Olguin 2002:120). Sculpture gained an important element of vitality with inlay of shell and stone, and often were painted in sacred red pigment (which remains on the Albright-Knox figure). 

For an elaborately clothed standing Chalchiuhtlicue in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City, acquired in 1824, see Moctezuma and Olguin, (2002: pl. 38). For a standing Chalchiuhtlicue acquired in 1939 in the Museés royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels, see Solís (1987:pl. 151). Another standing figure identified as Chalchiuhtlicue is in the Arnesberg Collection (Kubler 1954: pl. 8).
A number of seated figures can be found in museum collections including the Museum für Völkerkunde, Basel (Pasztory 1983: pl. 183); and the British Museum (Baquedano 1984: figs. 5 and 19).
See also the similar standing figure of Xochiquetzal from the Boban ( later Pinart) collection now at the Musée du Quai Branly (Aztèques, la collection de sculptures du musée du Quai Branly, cat. no. 18).

African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art

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