Xipe Totec

Mexico, Nahua culture
Postclassic period (900–1521)
c. 900–1200
Ceramic
15 3/4 x 6 5/8 x 3 7/8 in. (40 x 16.8 x 9.8 cm)
AP 1979.39
Currently Not On View
Xipe Totec, the Aztec god of spring and regeneration, appears in many Mesoamerican cults. A fertility deity, Xipe Totec vividly conveys the concept of death and rebirth by wearing the flayed skin of a sacrificial victim. Meaning literally “our lord, the flayed one,” Xipe Totec is also associated with the arrival of spring, when the earth covers itself with a new coat of vegetation and exchanges its dead skin for a new one. During the corn-planting festival, Xipe Totec was worshipped by a priest who, dressed in the skin of a flayed victim, ritually enacted the death-and-renewal cycle of the earth. Xipe Totec was the divine embodiment of life emerging from the dead land and of the new plant sprouting from the seed. In this sculpture, the face of a living being is seen behind the mouth and eye openings of the sacrificial victim, whose skin is laced together by cords at the back of the wearer’s skull. Similar lacing is also seen on the chest, amid the vigorously articulated body covering. This clay sculpture of Xipe closely resembles Aztec stone figures in the smooth modeling, sturdy body, and rounded lips and eyes.

Provenance

(Ben Heller, Inc., New York); purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1979.