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The Guennol Olmec Figure of a Deity, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 600 B.C.

Property from the Collection of Robin Bradley Martin

The Guennol Olmec Figure of a Deity, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 600 B.C.

The Guennol Olmec Figure of a Deity, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 600 B.C.

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Property from the Collection of Robin Bradley Martin

The Guennol Olmec Figure of a Deity

Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 600 B.C.


Height: 5 in (12.7 cm)


The dramatic and richly adorned figure portraying the Rain god, cradling a bundle of quetzal feathers in muscular arms and long-fingered hands, the plumes cascading closely at the side, the figure’s head amplified by the high, rounded projection over the forehead and gentle conical whorls incised with scrolls at each side, the meditative face dominated by the rounded eyebrows weighing upon the narrow slit eyes, and framing the thick furrowed brow, with a flattened nose showing tiny nostrils above the snarling fanged buccal mask, each cheek finely incised with symmetrically opposed T-shapes indicative of a cave mouth, the full lower lip pulled tautly downward, with short beard, the long and detailed ears adorned with long tasseled ornaments cleft at the ends, the coiffure falling elegantly at back in four even tiers of finely striated locks, wearing a loosely hung cape over the rounded shoulders decorated with oval forms along the top, a scalloped edging below and straight fringe seen at the base of the torso above the break; in deep blackish-green serpentine, two drills holes at the top of the head.

For further information on the condition of this lot please contact neely.metz@sothebys.com

Purportedly acquired in 1918

Alastair Bradley and Edith Martin, New York, acquired by 1952

By descent to the present owner

Miguel Covarrubias, Indian Art of Mexico and Central America, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957, pl. 11

Gordon F. Ekholm, "Art in Archaeology", in Robert Redfield, Melville J. Herskovits, and Gordon F. Ekholm, Aspects of Primitive Art, New York: The Museum of Primitive Art, 1959, p. 99, pl. 10

Román Piña Chán and Luis Covarrubias, El Pueblo del jaguar (Los olmecas arqueológicos), Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropología, 1964, p. 94

Michael D. Coe, "The Olmec Style and Its Distribution", in Gordon R. Willey, ed., Handbook of Middle American Indians: Archaeology of Southern Mesoamerica, Vol. 3, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965, p. 745, fig. 14; also p. 764, fig. 53, bottom, drawing of detail 

Arturo Warman and María Cristina Sánchez de Bonfil, "Olmecas, zapotecas, mixtecos", Cuadernos del México prehispánico, No. 3, Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropología, 1967, p. 12

Peter David Joralemon, "A Study of Olmec Iconography", in

Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology, No. 7, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1971, p. 85, fig. 255

Samuel K. Lothrop and Gordon F. Ekholm, "Pre-Columbian Objects", in Ida Ely Rubin, ed., The Guennol Collection, Vol. I, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, p. 326

Jacques Soustelle, Les Olmèques. La plus ancienne civilisation du Mexique, Paris: Arthaud, 1979, p. 140, pl. 49

Jacques Soustelle, Los Olmecas, Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1984, n.p., pl. 49

Jacques Soustelle, The Olmecs: The Oldest Civilization in Mexico, New York: Doubleday, 1984, p. 125, pl. 49

Michael D. Coe, ed., The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 82, cat. no. 199 and p. 290, cat. no. 199

Karl A. Taube, "The Rainmakers: The Olmec and their Contribution to Mesoamerican Belief and Ritual", in Michael D. Coe, ed., The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 97, fig. 18c

Elizabeth P. Benson, Beatriz de la Fuente, and Marcia Castro-Leal Espino, eds., Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico, Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1996, p. 233, Cat. no. 75

Karl A. Taube, Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2004, p. 31, fig. 14

Karl Taube, "El dios de la lluvia olmeca", Arqueología Mexicana, no. 96, March-April, 2009

Michael D. Coe, The Olmec Notebooks of Miguel Covarrubias, 2012, p. 24 (online publication: https://www.mesoweb.com/olmec/publications/Covarrubias.html)

Karl Taube, "The Ballgame, Boxing and Ritual Blood Sport in Ancient Mesoamerica", in Colin Renfrew, Iain Morley and Michael Boyd, eds., Ritual, Play and Belief, in Evolution and Early Human Societies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, p. 268, fig. 17.2 a

American Museum of Natural History, New York, on loan since 1952

Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Pre-Columbian Art, January - February, 1953, no. 6, illus. in the catalogue

Princeton University Art Museum, The Olmec World, Ritual and Rulership, December 16, 1995 - February 25, 1996; continued to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, April 14 - June 9, 1996

National Gallery of Art, Washington, Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico, June 30-October 20, 1996