Pre-Columbian, Peru, Nazca culture, ca. 100 BCE to 800 CE. A fantastically preserved, diminutive polychrome vessel in the form of a flattened human head. The eyes are open wide, dominating the face, with a dramatic stepped pattern underneath each eye, perhaps meant to represent blood or tattooing. The head also has a tiny mustache, a small, projecting nose, and a trapezoidal, expressionless mouth. Black hair covers the rest of the "head," with an abstract, repeated, symmetrical pattern painted in red around the back of the head. The head is a "trophy head." A small, round opening in the top of the head serves as the mouth of the vessel. Size: 3.55" W x 2.5" H (9 cm x 6.4 cm)
The disembodied, "trophy" head is a very common one in Nazca artwork. Archaeological evidence from the 20th century shows that these stylized depictions are based on real rituals - over one hundred mummified trophy heads have been found from Nazca excavations, almost all with a puncture to the front of the skull for suspension. Archaeologists specializing this culture continue to argue over the significance of these heads in Nazca culture - warriors fallen in battle? Taking the power of enemies by assuming ownership of a crucial part of their bodies? Remembrance of deceased relatives? The artwork here is an intriguing reminder of this lost culture.
Provenance: ex private Florida, USA collection
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