Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Moche III, ca. 400 CE. A burnished blackware/brownware vessel depicting a seated man with a naturalistic visage most likely representing a portrait of a particular individual, wearing a long poncho, elaborate headdress decorated with seashells at each end, and large round ear ornaments, holding a baby jaguar on his lap as if it were a placid kitty. Given the great contrast in scale between the figure and the jaguar, and the figure's highly decorated state, this gent probably represents a warrior or ruler of high status. Size: 7" L x 5" W x 7.25" H (17.8 cm x 12.7 cm x 18.4 cm)
Intriguingly, Pre-Columbian mythology and art oftentimes reflects a close interaction between human and jaguar. The jaguar symbolized power and might throughout the Pre-Columbian world. Warriors, rulers, hunters, and shamans alike associated themselves with this king of beasts, the largest and most powerful feline in the New World. The principal Moche god wears a headdress adorned with a jaguar head and paws and important mortals donned similar headdresses. A nocturnal animal, the jaguar sleeps in caves and dark places and creeps quietly in the forest, evoking great mystery. Oddly enough, few Moche artists would have actually scene jaguars as they are not indigenous to the coast. Jaguars prefer moist forest conditions. However, scholars believe that some cubs were transported over the mountains for Moche rituals and it is also possible that some jaguars wandered down the coast.
Provenance: Ex-Dan May collection, 1970's
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