Squatting dwarf

Mexico; Olmec, c. 900–600 BC

Stone, possibly serpentine

H. 8.9cm; W. 5.1cm; D. 6.4cm

Carved of a fine-grained brown stone and polished to a dull lustre, this small sculpture portrays a dwarf, with a large, ovoid head, thick torso, and short, stout limbs. Dwarfs are a common motif in Mesoamerican art, portrayed in Olmec monumental sculpture, ceramics, and lapidary art; in later Maya art dwarfs appear frequently as attendants in noble or royal courts. This dwarf is engraved with maize emblems and carries a maize sack on his back; in ancient Mesoamerica maize was much more than a crop—it was a divine being, with a life cycle recounted in myth and re-enacted in ritual. In some accounts it was literally the material from which humankind was fashioned.

© The Al Thani Collection