SPECIAL ADVISORY: To safeguard against the spread of COVID-19, the Yale University Art Gallery will remain closed until further notice. Learn More

Art of the Ancient Americas
Maker: Unknown

Female Figure with a Child

A.D. 600–900

Ceramic with pigment

17.8 × 8 × 6 cm (7 × 3 1/8 × 2 3/8 in.)
Gift of the Olsen Foundation
1958.15.10
This small clay figurine depicts an elegantly dressed female, seated cross-legged and holding a baby in the crook of her right arm. Her close-fitting garment covers her left breast but leaves the right exposed for the child to suckle. She wears copious jewelry—two bracelets, a necklace, and large earrings—and a highly elaborate headdress. The figure may represent the moon goddess, who was also worshipped by the Maya as a patroness of fertility and childbirth. The figurine was most likely a grave offering, perhaps for a woman who had died in childbirth. The hollow clay object could also function as a whistle, and a few notes may have been blown at the funeral before the figurine was placed in the grave.
Geography: 
Made in Mexico
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Mexico, probably Campeche, Jaina Island, Maya
Period: 
Late Classic Period
Classification: 
Sculpture
Provenance: 

Possibly Stable Gallery, New York, February 17, 1956 or possibly Alfred Stendahl Gallery, Los Angeles, March 1, 1957; Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1958 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

“New Acquisitions Issue,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 24, no. 1 (April 1958): 22, 25, fig. 10.

Michael D. Coe, “Three Maya Figurines from Jaina Island,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 35, no. 2 (Spring 1975): 24, ill.

George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 138, 295, no. 304, fig. 150.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 319, ill.

Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 166–67, fig. 164.

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.