Skip to Content
Today Open today 11–5

Female Figure with Geometric Face and Body Paint

A work made of terracotta and pigmented slip.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • A work made of terracotta and pigmented slip.


200–100 BCE


Guanajuato or Michoacán, Mexico

About this artwork

This sculpture belongs to the sophisticated Chupícuaro artistic tradition, which was more concerned with symbolic abstraction than naturalistic anatomical proportion. The female figure stands in a formal frontal pose, the oversize head set with staring, lozenge-shaped eyes, the nose jutting forward above a receding chin, and the open mouth showing rows of teeth. Subtly concave in the middle, the trapezoidal torso abruptly swells in the bulbous hips, belly, and thighs. The face and body are covered by burnished, deep red slip, or liquid clay, which sets off a bold pattern of cream zigzag lines; more delicate designs were drawn across the cream-painted loins and thighs. There is an uncanny visual quality to the hieratic stance, stylized proportions, and brilliant designs, all of which reflect the ritual body paint that Chupícuaro women would have worn on high ceremonial occasions some two thousand years ago.

It is possible that this and several known related figures commemorated a girl’s coming of age, embodying a perceived correspondence between the stages of human life and the earth’s annual cycle of birth, death, and renewal. As burial offerings, these effigies would have affirmed the matriarchal status of a high-ranking, mature, and productive member of society, recalling her initiation into womanhood and family life, and her active participation in seasonal rites devoted to securing the fertility of the soil, the abundance of crops, and the well being of the community from year to year.


Currently Off View


Arts of the Americas




Female Figure with Geometric Face and Body Paint


Guanajuato state (Object Possibly made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

200 BCE–100 BCE


Terracotta and pigmented slip


44.8 × 20 × 8.7 cm (17 5/8 × 7 7/8 × 3 7/16 in.)

Credit Line

Frederick W. Renshaw Acquisition Fund; purchased with funds provided by Cynthia and Terry E. Perucca, Jamee and Marshall Field, and Helen and Sam Zell; Edward Johnson, Grant J. Pick Purchase, and Henry Horner Straus Memorial funds; purchased with funds provided by Lynn and Allen Turner; African and Amerindian Curator’s Discretionary Fund

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

Learn more.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions