This standing figure, carved from basalt, depicts the Mesoamerican god Xipe Totec, whose name can be translated as “our lord the flayed one.” Revered by multiple cultures, including the Maya, Zapotec, Toltec, Mixtec, Huastec, and Mexica (Aztec), this representation demonstrates the layers of flesh from sacrificed individuals that priests associated with the worship of this god would wear. This is especially apparent around the eyes and mouth of the figure as well as in the back of the work, where the artist carved this layer of the sacrificed individual’s skin tied together.
Scholars believe that the worship of Xipe Totec probably arose from earlier agrarian rituals centered around the renewal of vegetation in the spring as well as the belief that flesh held the spirit of an individual in bondage within the human body. Priests would wear this skin of a sacrificed person for 22 days before re-emerging with their own skin painted in gold, symbolizing the divine gift of rebirth following death, which mimics the shedding of skin by snakes and other reptiles. Xipe was also considered by the Mexica to be the patron god of goldsmiths, as gold was considered a substance related to the cycles of death and rebirth connected with the sun.
[Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2003-2010;
Gift to The Vilcek Foundation, 2010;