Mesoamerican Figure Highlights Heritage Ethnographic Art Auction

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Olmec translucent blue-green jade piece can be traced to 900-300 BC

An Exquisite Olmec Standing Figure
An Exquisite Olmec Standing Figure

DALLAS, Texas (June 24, 2021) – From a faraway place in a faraway time, three extraordinary artworks from the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization will be among the top lots featured in Heritage Auctions’ Ethnographic Art: American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Auction July 14.

“The Olmec art style always was, and still is, a hallmark of the culture,” Heritage Auctions American Ethnographic Art Specialist Delia Sullivan said. “Their spectacular artwork was created in a number of media, including jade, clay, basalt and greenstone, among others, often portraying human and animal images.”

Olmec lots featured in the auction include:

* An exquisite Olmec Standing Figure (estimate: $75,000-100,000) – made during the Middle Pre-Classic Period (circa 900-300 BC) from highly desirable blue-green jade with a high polish, it stands 3-1/4 inches high. Olmec figures carved in translucent blue-green jade are in high demand, and some survived as heirlooms in later Mesoamerican cultures.

* A slightly taller (4-3/4 inches) Olmec Standing Figure (estimate: $30,000-50,000) is an older artifact, from the Early Classic Period (1,200-900 BC). It features a naturalistically proportioned female with flexed arms and hands held to breasts. The face reveals a delightful, happy expression, the mouth open as though vocalizing. The figure is made of cream earthenware with red pigments on the hair, lips, ears and recessed areas of the body.

* From the same time period (1,200-900 BC) comes a Pair of Olmec Birds with Long Beaks and Extended Legs (estimate: $10,000-15,000). Carved from Pacific pearl oyster, the birds are mirror images of each other. The short wings and long thin legs suggest a wading bird, such as an egret or heron (the Snowy Egret inhabits the Guerrero coastline of Mexico year-round). A horizontal slot above the body might have been used to attach the birds to a headdress or headband. Fine carving and incisions were used to outline crest, wings, tail feathers and details on the body. The eyes originally had inlays, probably iron ore. Rulers donned the Bird Monster (Harpy Eagle) headdress and mask and wore feathered capes as symbols of their power and authority. Seabirds such as the frigate, egret and the heron were associated with the sea, fish and fertility – the Underworld in ancient Mesoamerican thought.

For images and information on all lots in the auction, visit HA.com/8048.

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

Heritage also enjoys the highest online traffic and dollar volume of any auction house on earth (source: SimilarWeb and Hiscox Report). The Internet’s most popular auction-house website, HA.com, has more than 1,400,000 registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of five million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
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James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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