Hunchbacked dwarf

Effigy of a hunchbacked dwarf modelled in an intense redcoloured ceramic. The details, like the almond-shaped eyes, the hair or the separation between the fingers, have been indicated by fine incisions. It has a pronounced hump that gives the piece an S shape when seen from in profile, giving a sense of dynamism to the figure.

The theme of hunchbacks, in most cases also dwarfs, is of the most usual type seen in the ceramic art of Colima, along with the famous Colima dogs.

It is thought that in Mesoamerica hunchbacks possessed certain magic powers and these were even spoken of in the courts of the dignitaries of the central high plateau of Mexico in the Post Classic period. In the Mayan zone they fulfilled the role of shamans and were represented in important codex in royal audiences.

In the Popol Vuh, the book on the myth of creation of the “K’iche Mayas”, it is said that the gods modelled a race of human dwarfs in clay, so that they would worship and pay homage to the gods. The dwarfs started to ignore their creators, so the gods converted them into hardened clay. After that they created humans out of corn, and they made smoke enter their eyes so that they lost sight of the future – unlike the dwarves who could see the future.

The cultures of the west of Mexico stand out above other pre-Columbian cultures for their vast production of ceramics of unequalled quality and variety. These pieces were to form part of the grave goods of a deceased person, and it is for this reason that they have been found almost exclusively in tombs. This factor has been decisive for their conservation up to the present time, and has meant that they are practically all intact and looking much as when they were originally produced.

The spectrum of types and motives represented in the ceramics of the cultures of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco is very wide. The pieces have been of great use in widening knowledge of the traditions and practices of these Mesoamerican peoples.


- AA.VV, Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1970.
- AA.VV, Trésors de la céramique précolombienne dans les collections Barbier-Mueller, 2003.
- VON WINNING, Hasso, Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America.
- TOWNSEND, Richard F. Ancient west Mexico. Art and archaeology of the unknown past. Thames & Hudson, Chicago, 1998. - BALUTET, Nicolás. La importancia de los enanos en el mundo maya precolombino. Instituto iberoamericano de Indiana, nº 26, 2009.
- VÉRUT, DOMINIQUE D. Precolombian dermatology & cosmetology in Mexico. Schering corporation U.S.A, 1973.

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