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Seated Female Figurine Whistle

600-900
6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)

Unknown, Maya
Mexican

Object Type: Ceramics
Medium and Support: Clay, pigments
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1971.15
Location: Currently on view
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The Maya are noted for the realistic, lively human figures they depicted in their murals and ceramics. The many portrait-like ceramic figurine whistles found on the island of Jaina provide the modern viewer with an astounding amount of detail about the way the ancient Maya lived. The seated female figure was a popular form. Two molds were used: one for the head and one for the body. The rest of the details—elaborate beaded jewelry, loose cape, ankle-length skirt—were created by hand. The whistle is formed with a hole in the figure’s back left shoulder that leads down into its hollow body cavity. It remains a mystery why the whistle form was so common in Jaina graves.

The Maya practiced body modification and adornment that reflected their standards of beauty and reinforced class lines. The elaborate jewelry was likely made of precious metals and green stone. This figure’s nose replicates the prolonged nose bridge that was produced in real life with an artificial nose piece. Between the ears and mouth are lines of scarification created by cutting or branding permanent designs into the skin.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

Provenance
Intermercado Limitado, San Jose, Costa Rica (dealers?); purchased from them by the Gallery in 1971

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