Olmec culture, Santa Cruz, Mexico
Vessel in the Form of an Old Woman
Early Formative period, 1200–900 B.C.
H. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection
Indiana University Art Museum, 2010.49
The old woman depicted here is both skeletonized and rotund. The latter
feature, combined with the pose, which is a traditional one among
Mexican Indians for giving birth, suggests a young woman, while the
wrinkled face, drooping breasts, and skeletal ribs imply one much
older. Dualities of this sort (old/young, life/death) are found throughout
the history of pre-Columbian art, but this particular image may refer
to a deity who was believed to be the ancient mother of all gods and
humans, and who, along with her consort, determined exactly when a
person would be born.