Pre-Columbian, Ecuador, Jamacoaque culture, ca. 500 BCE to 500 CE. A fantastical jar with a flat "face" of an anthropomorphic/zoomorphic transformational creature. The face towers above the rounded, bulbous body of the vessel, which rests on its rounded base and has a flared, round mouth above a short, central neck. The face dominates the piece. Rectangular, with a serpent-like creature that writhes through its forehead and emerges, three-headed (one of the heads is lost), the face has huge, bulging eyes narrowed to slits, as well as a wide open mouth full of teeth, with jaguar-like fangs at each corner. Serpents' bodies form sinuous, symmetrical curves that resemble arms below the face, rising in high relief from the body of the jar. Two more serpent heads arise from the ends of those. The serpents' bodies have round, bulbous features studding them. Incised lines form further decoration on the face and serpent area. Aside from this decorative area, the rest of the jar is burnished a dark, wine red. Size: 8.25" W x 8.05" H (21 cm x 20.4 cm)
Shamanic transformation - brought on in part by the ingestion of coca leaves - was a huge part of the Jama Coaque pottery, a turning away from earlier Ecuadorian pottery traditions (Valdivian, Chorrera) that were focused on representations of the body. In this new phase in ancient Ecuadorian society, status and different occupations for individuals suddenly became important to show artistically - suggesting that this was the period when their culture began to stratify and become culturally complex, with individuals in the society having specialized roles like shaman. This fantastic figural vessel stands on its own as a work of art but also reminds us of exciting developments in a long-lost world.
Provenance: private Andrade collection New York, USA, acquired 1960s; ex Kneeler & Company
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