The Aztec civilization is perhaps the most
celebrated of the ancient Mesoamerican cultures.
Their empire stretched throughout northern
Mexico and was surpassed in size only by that of
the Incans. Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico
City) was the center of their religious and
political systems. The city was composed of a
group of island located in the center of Lake
Texcoco, earning it the nickname “Venice of the
New World.” By the time the Spanish
Conquistadors arrived in the early 16th Century,
led by the infamous Hernan Cortes, Tenochtitlan
was by far larger than any city they could have
seen in Europe. Today, the Aztec are
remembered for their grand temple complex
ruins, for their intricate calendar system, and for
the few examples of their art that survive today.
Aztec art was primarily ecclesiastical and is
renowned for its powerful nature. Highly adept at
working with stone, the Aztec artists created
artworks that were both grand in scale, as
evidenced in their temple architecture, and
relatively small in size. Like many cultures, the
Aztecs believed that many animals had
supernatural symbolic associations. Therefore,
although the Aztec gods were usually visualized
in human form, most gods also had animal
aspects. Moreover, it was believed that both men
and gods could, at certain times, actually change
themselves into powerful animals.
The form of the figure largely conforms to the
columnar shape of the stone. He is squatting
down with his bent legs pressed against his
sides. His arms are crossed in an x-shape over
his torso. Such a posture can be found in other
famous sculptures from the Mayan era as well.
These figures are believed to represent either
shaman or deities. This sculpture is small and
personal. It can easily be held in one's hand.
The backside is largely unarticulated and well
worn by centuries of being held and rubbed.
Such a piece may have functioned as a portable
altar of sorts, or may have rested in a household
There is an old inventory number from an
unknown collection on the back of the piece