View full screen - View 1 of Lot 8. Aztec Stone Figure of a Macehual, Postclassic, circa AD 1300 - 1521.
8

Aztec Stone Figure of a Macehual, Postclassic, circa AD 1300 - 1521

Property from a Private Collection

Aztec Stone Figure of a Macehual, Postclassic, circa AD 1300 - 1521

Aztec Stone Figure of a Macehual, Postclassic, circa AD 1300 - 1521

Property from a Private Collection

Aztec Stone Figure of a Macehual

Postclassic, circa AD 1300 - 1521


Height: 20 3/4 in (52.7 cm)

Overall very good condition. Fine details and modelling. Some small repairs including a break and repair on the proper right forearm. Possible repair on the proper right wrist. Appear to have clean breaks and repairs at each ankle. Some fill to tip of the nose.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

Fine Arts of Ancient Lands, New York
Shango Galleries, Dallas
Wally and Brenda Zollman, Indianapolis, acquired from the above on January 11, 1987
Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 1994, lot 197, consigned by the above
Private Collection, acquired at the above auction
Lee A. Parsons, John B. Carlson, and Peter David Joralemon, The Face of Ancient America: The Wally and Brenda Zollman Collection of Precolumbian Art, Indianapolis, 1988, p. 197, cat. no. 135
Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Face of Ancient America: The Wally and Brenda Zollman Collection of Precolumbian Art, December 3, 1988 - February 26, 1989; additional venue: The Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, June 13 - September 10, 1989
This figure of a robust and resolute young man belongs to a class of Aztec sculptures that are thought to depict the young macehual, or common man. For the Aztecs, early manhood was the “most precious time in the life of men when they fulfilled their destiny as fathers, warriors and public servants” (Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Felipe Solís Olguín, eds., Aztecs, London, 2002, p. 410, text to cat. no. 36). Not intended as individual portraits, sculptures such as this instead depict the Aztec aesthetic and ethical ideal of the macehual, a calm, humble, dignified, and strong figure who sustained “the Aztec world with his might.” (ibid., p. 409, text to cat. no. 34).

Here the steadfast, sturdy macehual stands alert, naked save for his sandals and máxtlatl, or loincloth, which is tied in a large vertical knot that emphasizes his masculinity. His left hand is raised and held to his chest, whilst he holds his right hand out, thumb and forefinger together. In this hand he probably once held a standard of some perishable material; figures of this type and posture are known to have been “placed on or near the temples […where they held] flags or banners during festivals” (Esther Pasztory, Aztec Art, New York, 1983, p. 228).

A small hollow in the center of chest was probably once inlaid. Discussing a related figure in the collection of the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Felipe Solís Olguín and Roberto Velasco Alonso note that the hollow in its chest would “originally have been filled with greenstone, a ‘heart’ that gave the figure life.” (Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Felipe Solís Olguín, eds., Aztecs, London, 2002, p. 410, text to cat. no. 36). Whilst the “heart” is absent, this figure is brought to life by the intent gaze of the inlaid shell eyes and teeth, which gleam white against the somber grey stone.