Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Moche I, ca. 200 to 400 CE. A fabulous hand-built sculpture depicting a pair of figures making chicha, an ancient Mesoamerican variant of beer made from corn. The standing figures are bent slightly forward on either side of a large bowl, each holding one end of a crescent-shaped implement which protrudes from the top of the vessel, all atop an integral hollow platform. One figure bears squinting eyes and a smooth coiffure while the other figure has open eyes, red-painted details on the face and back, and an incised coiffure that is knotted on the verso. The buff-tan surface displays abstract linear and curvilinear details painted in red-orange pigment. An extremely rare example from the early Moche! Size: 7.125" L x 3" W x 7.375" H (18.1 cm x 7.6 cm x 18.7 cm).
The role of chicha beer in ancient Peruvian cultures like the Moche is one of foremost importance in both social and spiritual contexts. Chicha was an alcoholic beverage meant for those of high status or royalty because of how corn was perceived as a sacred, life-giving crop. Members of royal families would consume vast quantities of chicha during and after the harvest season and would regularly offer substantial amounts of the liquid to the gods for good health and plentiful harvests. Those in non-royal classes were not prohibited from consuming chicha, either, however they were only able to produce a lesser-quality product for themselves; however, this meant they could produce far greater quantities. Chicha beer and the ingredients necessary for its creation were also a common form of funerary offering as it symbolically gave the deceased individual the sustenance needed during the journey into the afterlife.
Provenance: private Florida, USA collection; ex-private Hollywood, California, USA collection; ex-Splendors of the World, Los Angeles, California, USA; ex-Arte Primitivo Gallery, New York, New York, USA, (auction 24, May 19, 2014, lot 208); ex-private H. J. Westermann collection, Germany, acquired between 1950 and 1970
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Repairs to areas of each figure's arms and portions of crescent-shaped implement. Light restoration to back of one figure. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, small nicks to base, bodies, arms, and central vessel, with chips and fading to pigmentation, and light roughness across most surfaces. Light earthen deposits within recessed areas, and scattered areas of light mineral deposits. Old inventory number written in black ink as well as old inventory sticker on base.