Death: From Our Ancestors to the Artisans

Death in our collections of Pre-Hispanic and Popular art

By Museo Dolores Olmedo

Incensario by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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.

Urna antromoporfa by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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

Ceramic xoloitzcuintles by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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 by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

“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).

Howling xoloitzcuintle by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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.

Xoloitzcuintles del Museo Dolores OlmedoMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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.

Tree of death by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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.

Catrinas made of clay by unknownMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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.

Detail of "Las calacas de Occidente" Day of the Dead Offering (2012) by Museo Dolores OlmedoMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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.

Dolores Olmedo Museum Altar (2015) by Museo Dolores OlmedoMuseo Dolores Olmedo

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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