Description Among the earliest ceramic figural art in South America is the figurine tradition of the Valdivia culture, which arose on the Guayas Coast of southwestern Ecuador sometime after 3200 BCE. The tiny figurine's highly stylized form attests to the Valdivia artists' sculptural sensitivity and the expressive possibilities of the understated form. Valdivia figurines are made of two rolls of clay pressed together and sculpted to form the standing figure. This lady's elaborate hair style, with its typically bulbous shape, remained popular for millennia among native peoples of western Ecuador. Most Valdivia figurines portray nude females, prompting their interpretation as fertility objects. However, they usually are encountered in domestic contexts and frequently found intentionally broken. It is more likely that they played a role in rituals concerned with daily life and survival, especially childbirth and healing ceremonies, an interpretation based on modern practices among traditional healers throughout western South America.
- Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas: The John Bourne Collection Gift. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville. 2012-2013.
Provenance Private collection, Arizona; Ron Messick Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; John G. Bourne, October 3, 1998, by purchase; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 2017.
Credit Bequest of John G. Bourne, 2017
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