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Nelson Rockefeller's 1969 Audio Guide Introduction


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Hunchback Leaning on Staff

10th–12th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz
H. 35 x W. 5 3/4 x D. 14 3/4 in. (88.9 x 14.6 x 37.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1963
Accession Number:
  • Description

    A number of sculptures depicting abstract human figures with wrinkled faces, stooped posture, hunched backs, and flexed knees holding staffs are known from the Huastec region of northern Veracruz. Here the figure's chin rests on a staff held with both oversized hands, which extends to his large feet creating two open negative spaces emphasizing the figure's outline; there is no separation between the arms or legs. It has been suggested that the "staff" may represent a digging stick used for breaking the ground for planting, and that the figure may depict the Huastec thundergod Mam, who was associated with fertility and a bountiful harvest.
    Unusual for Mexico, where Precolumbian stone sculpture is customarily compact and tightly worked with a strong central core, Huastec figures such as this one have two large open, negative spaces as part of their composition, underlining the singularity of northern Veracruz stone sculpture. An early purchase made the year the Museum of Primitive Art was chartered, the Huastec sculpture was included in its inaugural exhibit, Selected Works One, which opened in February 1957.

  • Provenance

    [Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1954]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1954, on loan to Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1963; Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978