The size of the head on this exceptional example of Veracruz art indicates it came from a figure that was quite large. Such figures have been interpreted as musicians or deities, or props in shamanic performances.
This is an exceptionally beautiful piece of Precolumbian sculpture. The size of the head, more than 7 inches in diameter, indicates the figure’s body was quite large which is characteristic of Veracruz, Mexico, where many large ceramic figures were made. Asphalt paint around the mouth is also typical of that area, a naturally occurring substance that washes up from seepages along the Mexican Gulf Coast.
Both male and female figures wear large decorative ear plugs in the art of Veracruz, but this one wears a helmet with its chinstrap, a detail seen on well-preserved full figures that represent warriors.
This ancient ceramic head from Veracruz embodies a Mesoamerican culture area important in the Florida Museum’s history. Two of our former curators, James Ford and Jeffrey Wilkerson, excavated archaeological sites in the area of Veracruz.
The head also represents a collection that is very important in the Florida Museum’s history. It was purchased at auction by Leigh Morgan Pearsall and this large collection was subsequently donated to the Museum in 1964. The collection formed the cornerstone for an NSF grant that helped build Dickinson Hall, where our collections are now housed. Pearsall’s collecting focused on North American Indian art in the late 19th and early 20th century, but he clearly had a good eye for Precolumbian art, as a number of the fine pieces in our Latin American Archaeology collection came in with his collection.
This lively head is certainly one of our treasures.
Curator, Latin American Art & Archaeology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Made by Remojadas people, Veracruz, Mexico
Dates to ~AD 550–900