The Proctor Stafford Collection, purchased with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch
Kan, Michael, Meighan, Clement, Nicholson, H.B. and Rexford Stead. Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1970.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art Members' Calendar 1987, vol. 24-25, no. 12-1 (December, 1986-January, 1988).
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This Colima ceramic figurine represents a Mexican hairless dog wearing a mask in the form of a human face. Dogs like this one were associated with the dead throughout Mesoamerica, and were believed to be the guide of the soul on the journey to the underworld. The mask serves as a metaphor for the soul of the individual. Even today, the Huichol (the indigenous peoples who inhabit the state of Nayarit in West Mexico today) believe that a body of water must be passed on the way to the underworld and that dogs who have been well-treated wait there to help the souls of their former owners across the river.
Mythology recorded in the sixteenth century, after the Spanish conquest, relates that dogs guided the deceased into the underworld. Being hairless, indigenous American dogs feel unusually warm to the touch, and there is a tradition of attributing healing powers to them.