The Olmec was the first expansive Mesoamerican society, laying many of the foundations for succeeding civilizations that followed. In addition to the Olmecs’ impressive socio-cultural advances, artistic advances placed the culture as a strong force in Mesoamerican history. Olmec artworks are considered among some of ancient America's most striking due to their high level of stylization and technical advances. In addition to Olmec artistic advances, the Olmecs did codify and record their gods and religious practices using art and glyphic symbols, embodying the characteristics of a highly developed society. Furthermore, each image created served a cultural purpose, either personally or publically for members of the society.. In Seated Bench Figure, a more personal approach to Olmec art making occurs, showcasing an adult holding an infant created in the were-jaguar style.
In the sculpture Seated Bench Figure, a figurine sitting with a small, childlike figure situated on its lap is presented. Created during the Formative Period in the Olmec culture, the statue stands at just under five inches tall and three inches wide, eliciting intimacy between the viewer and figurine. More so, Seated Bench Figure allows the viewer to consider that both figures are important in Olmec culture because of both figures’ relaxed stances and the utilization of a precious green stone. The stone that Seated Bench Figure is made out of, serpentine was regarded as a precious, divine media within Olmec culture. Additionally, resting stances in figurative Olmec aesthetic tradition indicate respected, elite, and potentially godly individuals. The seated stance of the larger figure on a bench, supporting the infant-like form, indicates both...
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...es, indicating a divine presence within the sculptures.
In Seated Bench Figure, Olmec stylization and culture are epitomized. This statue reveals a fantastic anthropomorphic creature using iconography reflective of a religious meaning. The cultural allegory presented because of the anthropomorphic were-jaguar illustrates Olmec beliefs-in particular, the Rain Baby. The codification of Olmec society through art showcased the richness of Olmec aesthetic tradition, allowing viewers to experience Olmec beliefs, social constructs, and crafts.
Miller, Mary Ellen. The art of Mesoamerica: from Olmec to Aztec. 4th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001.
Miller, Mary Ellen, and Karl A. Taube. The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: an Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993.
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