Bench Figure

Date: 1st century B.C.–A.D. 4th century

Geography: Colombia or Ecuador

Culture: Tolita-Tumaco

Medium: Ceramic, gold

Dimensions: H. 9 in. (22.9 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Timothy, Peter, and Jonathan Zorach, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.436.7


From the third millennium B.C. onward, Ecuadoran people had a figurine tradition that would last until the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. The figurines of the best-known regional styles of the first millennium A.D.—Tolita/Tumaco, Jama Coaque, Bahiá, and Guangala–share similarities based on the earlier and more widely distributed Chorrera style. Various degrees of realism and sculptural modeling appear in the figurines, which have an average height of about seven to twelve inches. Some Tolita/Tumaco examples, however, can be as tall as three feet.

A nude, heavily built male figure sits on a bench in frontal, perfectly symmetrical pose, with hands on knees and head held upright. His expressionless face gazes straight forward and simple gold rings are in the nose and ears. Red pigment remains on much of the figure's surface. The bench, made separately, is indicative of the figure's rank and authority. Such figures may have been dressed for special occasions.