Death: From Our Ancestors to the Artisans

Museo Dolores Olmedo

Death in our collections of Pre-Hispanic and Popular art

Pre-Hispanic Art
The collection of the Dolores Olmedo Museum has around 800 pieces of Pre-Hispanic art, some of which are related to the cult of death.

The tradition of the Day of the Dead is rooted in Pre-Hispanic times, when several Mesoamerican groups used to bury their dead accompanied by various objects, which according to their beliefs, would be useful to them in the after-life: food, clothes and personal objects.

In our Pre-Hispanic Art collection, we have pieces that allude to death, like this funerary urn, belonging to the Zapotec Culture.

In addition we have a collection of 40 xoloitzcuintles dogs, made from ceramic, originating from the Western Culture.

The collection of xoloizcuintles in the Dolores Olmedo Museum are represented in several poses, which depict their relationship with man.

“Xoloitzcuintle” comes from the náhuatl “xólotl”, which means “death”, and “izcuintle” that is “pequeño”. This "small God of Death" acts as a guide to the deceased on their route to Mictlán (place of the dead).

The xoloitzcuintles in clay, which also served as funerary vessels and date back more than three thousand years, were found in tombs, as the natives were buried next to these dogs.

The xoloitzcuintles dogs, originally from Mexico, are an important part of the history of the museum. Diego Rivera gave a pair as a gift to Dolores Olmedo, and ever since their descendants have been kept in the gardens.

Popular Art
Among the thousand pieces of Popular Art we have, we can admire several that are linked with death.

Our Popular Art collection includes several amazing pieces that portray the death, such as this "Tree of Death", made with polychrome clay in Metepec, Estado de México.

Even when we think about death as something dark, this tree is full of color.

The Catrina, a character created by José Guadalupe Posada, has been portrayed in very different ways by Mexican artisans.

To the left, we see a Catrina made with glazed clay from Guanajuato, which features the original Catrina with an elegant and colonial dress.

On the right we see a chandelier from the state of Puebla, made in ceramic, that shows a Catrina dressed as a China Poblana.

We also have a very important and growing collection of calaveras (skeletons) made of cardboard, with new pieces created every year exclusively for our Day of the Dead exhibition.

Following the ideas of our founder, Dolores Olmedo, the museum recognizes the work of Mexican artisans and their pieces, that decorate our Day of the Dead Altar.

Credits: Story

Carlos Phillips Olmedo
Director del Museo Dolores Olmedo

Josefina García
Directora de Colecciones y Servicios Educativos del Museo Dolores Olmedo

Adriana Jaramillo
Directora de Comunicación y Relaciones Institucionales del Museo Dolores Olmedo

Aimee Guzmán García
Coordinadora de Difusión y Contenidos Digitales del Museo Dolores Olmedo

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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