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Zapotec Seated God Figural Urn

Large grayware pottery urn depicting a seated deity, wearing an incised tight headdress with long side lappets and traces of original cinnabar. Strongly modeled facial features wearing a nasal buccal mask and large disc ear ornaments, tasseled pectoral and seated with hands on lap. Cylindrical chamber behind. This Zapotec urn with its unique headdress is much like a similar example illustrated in Frank Boos; The Ceramic Sculpture of Ancient Oaxaca. Size: 11 inches ( 28 cm) H. Provenance: Ex. Dr. George Wald, Cambridage MA, Acq 1960s. Recipient of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the retina. Born in Brooklyn, he went to Manual Training High School and was the first member of his family to go to college, and his tastes in art combined an acquired love of high culture with a deep appreciation for objects made by village craftspeople for local or ceremonial purposes – things that were not only beautiful but meaningful, and even useful. Most of his collection was assembled in the 1950s and 1960s, first from galleries and dealers in Boston, New York, London, and Paris, then during his travels to attend conferences around the world. In particular, he made annual trips to Mexico through the 1960s, driving all over the country with his closest friend, the potter and sculptor Edwin Scheier ( They visited archeological sites, stayed with local collectors and enthusiasts, and searched out village artists who were extending the ancient traditions. Wald’s collection was always a labor of love – he was searching for objects that spoke to him, that told stories, and that he wanted to live with, day in and day out, year after year. He occasionally loaned pieces for museum exhibitions, but never sold one during his lifetime. He regarded the carvings and sculptures as friends and companions, part of his life and his family. After Wald’s death in 1997, his wife Ruth Hubbard continued to treasure the collection and kept it intact. Following her death in 2016 (covered in the New York Times Magazine’s annual “Lives They Lived”:, their children retained much of the African art, but decided to let the pre-Columbian and some other favorite pieces find new homes.Read more

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