Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Moche IV/V, ca. 500 to 800 CE. A lovely bichrome stirrup-spouted vessel with a squat footed base, a globular body, a tightly-curved stirrup handle, and a gently-tapering spout. The Moro-style body displays a dense motif of fine-line decorations painted in russet slip on a cream ground, with symmetrical russet bands embellishing the handle and spout. Each hemisphere of the vessel depicts a mythical warrior with a large headdress and lengthy trail sitting in an abstracted reed boat represented by the elongated curving shape beneath, the "reeds" of which being the dozens of pinstripe lines both above and below. Vessels like this were often used to hold sacred fermented liquids used in ceremonies or places in graves as offerings. A wonderful example, impressive for its elegant form and painted decorative program. Size: 5.75" W x 9.5" H (14.6 cm x 24.1 cm).
This vessel represents some of the finest example of Moche fine-line painting. As is the case with Moche IV artistry, artists had access to the highest quality brushes, slips, pigments, and accrued knowledge of those that had some before them. They also had a relatively stable political situation, unlike those who would come after them during the Moche V era. This example, likely created during the transition period between Moche IV and V, seems to depict a mythical warrior sailing on a solo voyage to destinations unknown. While the purpose of the journey is obscure, we can posit that it was one of significant importance for an illustration to be drawn onto a pottery vessel. Another possibility is that the depicted figure is one who recently died and was depicted sailing in his reed boat to ensure safe travels through the exotic realm of the afterlife.
For a similar example, please see: Donnan, Christopher B., and Donna McClelland. Moche Fineline Painting: Its Evolution and Its Artists. UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, 2000, p. 173, fig. 5.59.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private New York, USA collection
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