Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Chavin culture, ca. 900 to 200 BCE. A large mold-formed ceramic vessel with a flat base, a wide body, an arching stirrup handle, and a bulbous tapering spout with a rolled rim. The body of the vessel depicts a captured figure with three-dimensional features including raised bent legs, arms wrapped behind and bound with shackles at the wrists, and head hung low in defeat and shame. Large almond-shaped eyes with raised pupils, a prominent nose, full lips, bar-shaped ears with applied ear spools, and a finely-incised coiffure with a conical shaman's horn define his morose countenance, with a simple loincloth and a stippled tunic covering his cream and russet slipped body. Size: 4.75" W x 8.125" H (12.1 cm x 20.6 cm).
Depictions of captured individuals were common among Pre-Columbian artistic themes with figures shown in degrading or abused states. Prisoners were typically stripped of their clothing, finery, and any aesthetic attribute that denoted them as being of equal standing with their captors. The figure depicted on this example, however, still wears his clothing and was able to keep the shaman horn projecting from his head. This indicates that the captors may have seen some significance in keeping this figure unharmed, perhaps as a bargaining tool with the prisoner’s tribe or as an ultimatum for ensuring security for the captors.
The Chavin people lived in the northern Highland Andes, and their capital, Chavin de Huantar, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The artwork of Chavin represents the first widespread style in the Andes; fine incised vessels like this one, depicting exotic creatures and figures that lived outside of the Chavin homeland, were popular.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private New York, USA collection
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Vessel repaired from multiple large pieces with some resurfacing, overpainting, and light adhesive residue along break lines. Restoration to areas of spout, hands, face, feet, legs, and body. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as expected, fading to pigmentation and finer incised details, small nicks and chips to body, spout, handle, and base, with some light roughness across most surfaces. Light earthen deposits within recessed areas. Nice craquelure to original slip in some areas.