Unknown artist, Mexican; Olmec
Olmec Baby, 1200 - 1000 BCE
15.2 x 15.2 cm (6 x 6 inches) width arm to arm
Gift of Mr. Barnet Fain 81.152
An early Mesoamerican people, the Olmecs’ cultural ideals and ritual practices formed the basis for many succeeding pre-Columbian civilizations. This example of Olmec art shows the so-called genderless baby. The body is fat with short, pudgy arms and legs. The head is bald, the eyes slit and almost Asiatic, the earlobes elongated, and the mouth open. The upper lip appears as it would when a baby nursed, although the mouth is also often described as snarling, a reference to the sacred jaguar and the babies’ possible were-jaguar identity. The Olmec baby was also shown crawling or otherwise moving. The precise role played by this style of figurine remains unknown.