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Standing Female Deity or Deity Impersonator (work of art)

Artwork Info

circa 600–900
Mexican (Veracruz state)
57 1/4 x 22 3/8 inches (145.4 x 56.8 centimeters)


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes

Ancient American

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • This figure wears a partial mask over her mouth and a heavy necklace of shells or large seeds. Her large, circular ear flares indicate her elite status. She holds a torch in her raised right hand, and an incense bag in the shape of a human head hangs from her left hand. 
  • This work of art was sculpted out of clay.
  • This figure’s open mouth may represent  a woman singing a song during a ritual or ceremony.
  • Similar female sculptures were found during excavations at other ancient burial sites in Veracruz.

Learn More

The Veracruz culture is named for the modern Gulf Coast region of Mexico, where remains of this ancient civilization have been excavated. Monumental sculptures by Veracruz artists of the Classic period (about 600 B.C.E. to 900 C.E.) are the largest ceramic figures known from ancient times. They are hollow and were designed with various openings to allow heated air to escape so that they would not explode as they were fired. It was also necessary to reinforce the sculptures structurally so that they would not collapse before the clay had hardened. Because no ancient Veracruz kilns have been found, it is thought that such sculptures were fired in open pits. Although the identity of this female deity figure is uncertain, it may have been part of an elaborate burial offering of sculptures of deities, deity impersonators, and human attendants depicting religious rituals.

tags: symbolism, fashion

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  • A sculpture of a female deity holding a torch in her right hand and a bag in her left hand.

    Standing Female Deity or Deity Impersonator by Unknown Veracruz Artist