Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mexican Polychrome Figural Ashtray with Match Holder. Conquistador or Pirate?

Bought in the same antique mall as the Brush McCoy Vellum Vase, this high gloss, polychromal, figural ashtray caught my interest at once. At first I thought "pirate", but later, after having a chance to examine it, I dithered between pirate and conquistador. I think I am settled on conquistador unless something or someone persuades me otherwise.

The piece is about six inches tall and three inches wide at the bottom where the ashtray part juts out. The man's face is nicely modeled but there is something buffoonish about the body. The figure appears unnaturally short between the waist and ground as compared to the upper part of the torso. His pantaloons have a draped and saggy quality that almost suggests diaper. The boots have the least detail. The oval shaped barrel by his right side appears to be the right size to contain matches but there doesn't seem to be a rough striker spot anywhere on the item. I have no idea how old this piece is but I would guess mid 20th century and that it was made for the tourist trade. There is a mark on the bottom which consists of the English spelling of Mexico and a plant of some sort. The color appears to be a colored slip applied to the figure by hand.
The back of the ashtray also has some nice detail such as the short cape in a sort of teal blue and the purple plume that sweeps around the back of the hat in a swashbuckling fashion. The brown strap like thing that runs across the back of his thigh and down between his legs is a sword. Either it was forgotten when the figure was moulded or it was too technically difficult so it was simply drawn on later.


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