Pre-Columbian, north coast Peru, Moche, ca. 300 to 500 CE. A hand-built and modeled bichrome pottery trumpet depicting a ferocious, open-mouthed jaguar head bearing sharp fangs and staring ahead with its bulging eyes. Its spotted coat created via cream-hued highlights against a red ground resembles the jaguar's coat; however, its lack of ears suggests that the beast may also possess serpentine heritage. Regardless, it is an amazing example of a ceremonial musical instrument created by the Moche, replete with the utmost artistry, technique, and intriguing iconography. (See more on the symbolism embodied by this form in the extended description below.) Custom stand. Size: 13.25" L x 6.25" H (33.7 cm x 15.9 cm); 8.25" H (21 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. What's more, 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. The serpent is a fascinating element of Pre-Columbian iconography as well. First off, it was regarded to be a beneficial source of nourishment and at the same time quite deadly with its poisonous venom. Also important to the indigenous was the fact that snakes shed their skin annually thus rejuvenating themselves and serving as symbols of renewal and good health. Given all of these associations, this zoomorphic horn possesses layers of symbolism!
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection
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