West Mexico, Nayarit, Ixtlán del Río Area

Seated Couple

Proto-classic period, c. 100 B.C.–A.D. 250

Ceramic, red slip with white, yellow, and black decoration

Gift of Wayne and Frances Knight Parrish


The peoples of ancient West Mexico are renowned for the lively ceramic production of descriptive human figures made to accompany their revered dead into the underworld. That this couple is a matched set from the hand of the same artisan is confirmed by the number of details common to both: the seated posture, the striking modeling of each head and the extraordinary eyes and teeth, the elaborate earrings, the style and design of the tattoos or body paint and the fabric patterns, and the treatment of ears, feet, and hands. The male, wearing a feather-crested cap, is animated by an expressive face, which may indicate he is singing or chanting.  The female appears serene and somewhat transfixed by the sound of the shell scraper against the wooden rasp. She wears a twisted headband or turban that is not unlike those worn by some Indian women in the highlands of Guatemala today.

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