let the objects speak

Classic Veracruz - Formally Dressed 'Veracruz Lady' - In the Object's Own Words

Ceramic female figure - Veracruz


Normally, I sit quietly in my display case while I'm being admired by museum visitors, however, since I have your attention, I think I'll take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about myself and my life story.

The ceramic techniques used in Veracruz to produce mould-made figures like me were passed down from generation to generation, but the identity of my highly skilled maker is unknown. Like most pottery from my part of the world I carry no hieroglyphs or other signature, and so my creator remains anonymous. It's clear, though, that I am a sophisticated product of years of study and practice, for to create an object like me one needs precise knowledge of clay sources and qualities, use of temper, and drying and firing.


My very elaborate skirt and huipil (upper-body garment) tell you that I am a portrait of an elite woman. I could have been commissioned by the person whom I portray, or I might have been made in remembrance of a special person or a god. Ceramic portraits like me are important as three-dimensional views of people from the distant past, and also because they tell scholars much about the different roles and status of men and women in those times.


My detailed clothing and accessories tell of an ancient tradition of dress, and I may have been buried with someone dressed in just this way. Although I have survived, unfortunately the cotton textiles themselves, as well as leather and other delicate materials, almost never withstand the onslaught of the centuries in this part of the world. So figurines like me are very often the only remaining evidence of the work of the ancient weavers and others who produced so much splendour.


When the Spaniards came to my part of the world, chroniclers described the people and places they encountered in their travels. Their accounts tell us that the women of Mesoamerica dyed the fibres they used in making textiles, and so my huipil and skirt may once have been brightly painted to match real clothing. But because there is no record of the condition, or even the exact place, in which I was found, the multicoloured glory I may once have had remains as unknown as the name of my maker.