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Art of the Ancient Americas
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Unknown

Head of Xochipilli-Macuilxochitl, God of Pleasure, Games and Music

ca. 1500


27.9 × 21.3 × 17 cm (11 × 8 3/8 × 6 11/16 in.)
Gift from the Estate of Alice M. Kaplan
As the Aztec Empire expanded outward in all directions from its capital at Tenochtitlán, imperial artists appropriated the art of vanquished peoples, incorporating captured styles and media into images of Aztec historical figures and deities. With the incursion into Veracruz, artisans adopted the local tradition of large-scale ceramic sculptures. This highly naturalistic ceramic head, with almond-shaped eyes and a slightly open mouth, once belonged to a full-figure sculpture; the figure would have been represented either in a seated or standing position. The center of the headdress, originally consisting of five vertical stalks (only three remain), is thought to symbolize the crest of a feathered eagle, marking this as the head of Xochipilli-Macuilxochitl, deity of music, flowers, song, and games.
On view
Mexico, Aztec
Late Postclassic Period

Reportedly excavated in November 1964 at Tres Zapotes, Veracruz; Walter Randel Collection, New York (1965);The Alice M. Kaplan Collection


Felipe Solis, ed., The Aztec Empire, Curated by Felipe Solis, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2004), 305, fig. 176.

Elizabeth Kennedy Easby and John F. Scott, Before Cortés, Sculpture of Middle America: A Centennial Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 30, 1970 through January 3, 1971, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970), 298, no. 276, fig. 276.

Linda Bantel, The Alice M. Kaplan Collection, exh. cat. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), 48–49, fig. 17.

Pre-Columbian Art of Latin America, exh. cat. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, 1966), 28, fig. 65.

Pre-Columbian Art in New York: Selection from Private Collections, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1969), fig. 93.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 190, 183–84, pl. 175, ill.

“Acquisitions 2001,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2002): 128, ill.

Felipe Solis, ed., El Imperio Azteca: Obras de la exposicion, Spanish ed., exh. cat. (Bilbao, Spain: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 2005), 15, no. 17.

Felipe Solis, ed., The Aztec Empire: Catalogue of the Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2004), 72, no. 331, pl. 176.

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.