Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 25. Nayarit Seated Couple, Ixtlán del Rio style, Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250.

The David M. Solinger Collection

Nayarit Seated Couple, Ixtlán del Rio style, Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250

Lot Closed

November 21, 07:25 PM GMT


5,000 - 7,000 USD

Lot Details


The David M. Solinger Collection

Nayarit Seated Couple, Ixtlán del Rio style

Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250

Heights: 13 in (33 cm) and 14 ⅜ in (36.5 cm)

Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above in 1955

This richly decorated couple from the Solinger collection is a lively and vibrant example of Nayarit sculpture. The seated and standing couples bring to life the revered concept of ancestor worship and the primordial union of male and female creative forces. Couples engaged in a ceremonial activity, as in this pair, celebrate the continuity of a community ritual: here the male plays a turtle shell carapace with an antler, and the woman holds a bowl for communal feasting. The importance of both male and female participation in ritual events was an indication of their status, and their actions emphasized the separate but interdependent spheres of men and women. Community ceremonies and seasonal festivals took place in the public ceremonial spaces known as guachimonton, a compound of circular clusters of houses around a central tiered mound. The guachimonton provided a dedicated space for performative events.

Shared physiognomy, facial features, detailed body design, and jewelry reinforce kinship ties and support the interpretation of these figures as founding ancestors. Large heads and wide alert eyes are dominant in the Solinger couple, above stout torsos and short arms and legs. Bold facial painting of concentric wavy lines covers the faces with specific motifs around the mouths. Their bodies are marked by zigzag serpent motifs, on the female curving down each side of her chest, and from shoulder to shoulder on the male. His turtle carapace fits over his left hand and his prominent beaded armbands are likely small shell bells to enhance his musical prowess. They each have crescent pendants on the chest, earrings with applied crescent shells, and wear headbands likely of animal pelts. The female's skirt completely covers her lower body, with designs on the front of opposed triangular motifs and switching to dotted circular medallions on the underside, perhaps representing the cross-section of a plant.

Similar facial designs were recorded by the early 19th century explorer Carl Lumholtz in his travels among the Huichol Indians of the Sierra Madre. The tattooed patterns were created for certain pilgrimages and described as masks of the gods with some designs representing clouds, serpents, or rain.

For a couple showing similar facial designs, see Mireille Holsbeke and Karel Arnaut, Offerings for a New Life: Funerary Images from Pre-Columbian West Mexico, Antwerp, 1998, p. 157, cat. no. 84; for a very similar couple, see Sotheby's, New York, November 17, 2006, lot 388.