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Maize Deity
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Maize Deity

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description Made from rough volcanic stone, this statue is simply sculpted, with a deliberately placed rectangular cavity in its chest. The Aztec people, or the Mexica as they called themselves, would insert a green stone in this space in a religious ritual. Jade was symbolic of water, plants, and fertility more generally. The Aztecs believed that when the precious stone was placed, the sculpture became the literal home of the goddess it portrayed. For the Aztecs of Mexico, gods and goddesses took human form, but were distinguished from regular mortals by special clothing, headdresses, and jewelry -- finery imbued with sacredness. When a human put on the costume of a specific deity, or when a statue was carved with those ornaments and enlivened by jade, they were miraculously filled with that god's essence. The square headdress and nosering of this figure identify this figure as Chicomecoatl (Seven Serpent), a corn goddess. See a diagram here for a 16th-century image, from a manuscript known as the Codex Borbonicus, of a human embodier of Chicomecoatl dancing in a festival dedicated to her.

The figure's head was reattached, filled, and overpainted around the neck during a previous restoration. This treatment reduced some of the overpaint and consolidated cracks in the upper right portion of the head. There is evidence of original red and green paint overall.

Date Description Narrative
10/10/2018Treatmentexamined for exhibition; inpainted
  • Transformation: Art of the Ancient Americas. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2018-2019.
Provenance Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; John G. Bourne, December 15, 1944, by purchase.
Credit Gift of John G. Bourne, 2014

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1400-1521 (Late Postclassic)
volcanic stone, traces of red pigment
Accession Number
H: 21 5/8 x W: 7 11/16 x D: 5 3/4 in. (54.86 x 19.56 x 14.61 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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