In October, I wrote a post about a really cool Zapotec sculpture. When I was researching it, I learned that the mouth of the Zapotec sculpture comes from an “Olmec baby rain god.” Since then, I’ve wanted to know more, so I looked around and discovered these Olmec baby figurative sculptures. I love them so much! Take a look.
The Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica dates back to around 1500 BCE to 400 BCE. To give you a sense of time, this falls about the same time as the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom. They were the first complex civilization in Mesoamerica coming before and laying the foundations for the Mayans, Aztecs, Zapotec, and all of those guys.
They created lots of these baby figures, and we don’t really know much about them due to how long ago they were created. We can assume they had a special significance because so many were made, but we really don’t know what the significance is.
Here are some of the basic characteristics of these adorable baby-faced sculptures.
- Hollow and made of terracotta
- Nude or minimal clothing
- Chubby baby body with no genitalia
- Baby face with down-turned mouth and puffy slit-like eyes
- pear-shaped head (probably due to artificial cranial deformation)
- Tight-fitting helmet
- Usually in white or cream-colored slip or done completely in white clay
- Uses expressive facial features and gestures to show mood and emotion
Olmec Art Discussion Questions
- Describe these sculptures.
- What meaning or significance do you think these objects had?
- Study the body positions and the facial expressions. What emotions do you notice in these sculptures? What choices did the artist make to emphasize the emotion?
Olmec Art Project
Make a baby figure out of air-dry clay. You’ve just got to with this one. This Olmec art lesson on the Denver Art Museum website is pretty much exactly the lesson I was imagining for this artwork. I love the internet. The lesson talks about the mood and the emotion in the artworks. (The clay links are Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made through these links help support the work I do for you on Art Class Curator).
More Olmec Art Lesson Plans and Resources
- More information about the Olmec Civilization
- Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico Curriculum from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
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