Replica of Colossal Olmec Head #8
Located in the Field Museum lawn of the Art Museum Campus, this piece is a replica of the structures made by the Olmec people in 1300 BC. It was created by the artist, Ignacio Perez Solano, and donated by the people of Veracruz, Mexico to the City of Chicago in 2000. It weighs an impressive 1700 pounds and stands 7’3 feet tall.
Backstory and Context
The Olmec people existed from approximately 1200BC to 400BC and preceded the Maya and Aztecs. Although much remains unkown about this civilization of people, they are thought to be the first who created religious gathering centers. They are also well known for large stone heads that they produced. Seventeen of these sculptures have been uncovered so far.
Each has individual characteristics and are believed to represent different rulers of the Olmec civilization. If you compare all seventeen of the sculptures, however, you will notice similarities. If you pay close attention, you can see that all 17 of the stone heads are of men who have flat noses, thick cheeks, and somewhat crossed eyes. They also often feature a helmet, which is thought to be for protection in war. The Olmec people believed that the head was what contained the soul and it is for this reason that scholars believe the Olmec artists created sculptures of the head and not the rest of the body.
All seventeen of the original heads were created out of basalt, a type of volcano rock. Olmec number eight is thought to be the most natural and realistic recreations of all 17 sculptures. The original stone head is located in Veracruz, Mexico at the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa. Other replicas of number eight are located in Texas at the International Museum of Art and Science and in Utah at the Cultural Celebration Center.
Department of Cultural Affairs, The Chicago Public Art Guide, City of Chicago 2000. p 43.