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Art of the Ancient Americas
Artist: Unknown

Ceremonial Village Scene with a Flying Figure

100 B.C.–A.D. 250

Ceramic with pigment

29 × 18 cm (11 7/16 × 7 1/16 in.)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Olsen
In the volador (pole flying) ceremony, acrobats mimic a bird’s descent from the heavens to the earth. In this sculpture, a man wearing a feathered headdress is tied to the top of a pole, which towers above the roofs of surrounding houses. He flaps his arms and legs as if to fly, and he is fastened to a rope that wraps its way down the pole. In a moment, he will spiral down to earth.
Geography Mexico
West Mexico, Nayarit, Ixtlán del Río Style
Protoclassic Period

Alfred Stendahl (1915–2010), Los Angeles, June 27, 1956; Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1959 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Hasso Von Winning and Olga Hammer, Ancecdotal Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles, 1972), 71, no. 86, ill.

Peter T. Furst, West Mexican Art: Secular or Sacred? The Iconography of Middle American Sculpture (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973), 98–133.

Betty Bell, ed., The Archaeology of West Mexico (Ajijic, Mexico: West Mexican Society for Advanced Study, 1974).

George A. Kubler, The Art and Architecture of Ancient America, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1975), pl. 77b.

Jacki Gallagher, Companions of the Dead: Tomb Sculpture from Ancient West Mexico, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 1983).

George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 182–83, 355, no. 408, fig. 238.

Michael Kan, Clement W. Meighan, and Henry B. Nicholson, Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, 2, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989), An exhibiton of West Mexico Anecdotal figures, describing figures such as this one.

Helen Pollard, “Recent Research in West Mexican Archaeology,” Journal of Archeological Research 5 (1997): 345–84.

Richard F. Townsend, ed., Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, exh. cat. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1998), 144, fig. 10.

Joanne Pillsbury et al., Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015), 40–42, fig. 40.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.