Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Moche, ca. 300 to 500 CE. An impressive jaguar mask, its fierce visage made from adeptly hammered copper sheet with skillfully modeled bold facial features and white shell inlays accentuating its eyes, teeth, and fangs as well as perforations at the peripheries, presumably for decorative ornaments. The dramatic visage of this jaguar mask - with those leering eyes and that ferocious mouth full of fangs and gnashing teeth - suggests that the artist who created it was more interested in capturing the powerful symbolism associated with this formidable 'king of beasts' rather than putting forth a naturalistic representation. Custom tiered stand. Size: 8.625" W x 6.75" H (21.9 cm x 17.1 cm); 12.75" H (32.4 cm) on included custom stand.
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.
To see a Moche burial mask made of copper with shell inlays for eyes and mouth in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York collection (accession number 1980.563.18) representing the Moche deity the "decapitator" follow this link - http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1980.563.18/
Provenance: private S.H. collection, Santa Clara, California, USA; Robert Dowling
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