In the classic Quimbaya style of the Middle Cauca region of Colombia, the male figure with a rectangular slab-like body, seated with one hand on bent leg, the other hand raised in supplication, the mask-like face with slit eyes and mouth, a beak nose, and six holes in the forehead for the attachment of a headdress.
The posture is indicative of a shaman in an ecstatic trance, and the eyes confirm a transported conscious to another plane. The indented areas on the arms and legs illustrate the practice of tying ligatures around the limbs in order to create swelling, a highly popular and attractive body modification. These figures were used in a funerary context and were placed in the grave around the deceased to accompany them to the afterlife. Along with the headdress, they would have been adorned with jewelry and even clothing (this example features a hole through the septum for a nose ring, a hole through each hand for jewelry, and four holes through the torso for garments).
Ref: Labbe, Armand J., Colombia before Columbus: The People, Culture, and Ceramic Art of Prehispanic Colombia, New York: Rizzoli (19860, pgs. 81 - 99.
For a similar example, see: Stone-Miller, Rebecca, Seeing with New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (2002), pg. 186, no. 432, 434.
Dimensions: Height: 11 3/4 inches (30 cm)
Condition: Right leg repaired, bottom quarter restored, small loss to the top right corner, but overall in good condition.
Provenance: Private Maryland collection of a diplomat, acquired in the 1960s and then by descent.