View full screen - View 1 of Lot 1. Mezcala Stone Figure, Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC.
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Mezcala Stone Figure, Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC

John Richardson: A Scholar Collects

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Mezcala Stone Figure, Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC

Mezcala Stone Figure, Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC

John Richardson: A Scholar Collects

Mezcala Stone Figure

Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC


Height: 9 3/4 in (24.7 cm)

Overall excellent, has one clean break and repair on the proper upper right thigh. Remains of old clear adhesive around the repair. Could be properly removed.


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.

Sir John Richardson, New York, probably acquired in the 1960s
The restrained, dignified stone figures of the Mezcala convey a sense of monumentality, like a Cycladic sculpture, or the great stone moʻai of Easter Island.

Using only the simplest tools, the Mezcala sculptor worked in stone, defining planes and cutting and sawing grooves to create a human figure, distilled to its essential form. As modern as it is ancient, the sober and hieratic bearing of this sculpture suggests that it must have had some profound significance; its creation was surely neither quixotic nor devoid of meaning. Perhaps, as Carlo Gay suggests, these figures “had some esoteric significance based in magic or religious principles. Probably, they are all inherently symbolic, conveying complex messages about beliefs of the living, and hopes of the dead.” (Carlo T. E. Gay and Frances Pratt, Mezcala: Ancient Stone Sculpture from Guerrero, Mexico, Geneva, 1992, p. 21).

This figure is of the M-10 type, “the cardinal image of the tradition […] whose basic elements influenced […] subsequent types”. (ibid., p. 51).

This figure comes from the collection of Sir John Richardson, the art historian, biographer of Picasso, and inveterate collector. In his apartment the figure appeared alongside works by Braque and Picasso, Old Master Paintings, an exceptionally old We mask (see lot 49), ancient South Arabian sculpture, and narwhal tusks, amongst other extraordinary objects. As Richardson said, this “clash of disparate trouvailles gave my apartment its own special character.” (Alvilde Lees-Milne, The Englishman’s Room, London, 1986, p. 124).