Pre-Columbian, southern Peru, Nazca culture, ca. 400 to 600 CE. A fascinating and incredibly rare figural ceramic vessel in the form of a shaman holding serpents. The figure wears a dramatic, conical headdress, with a rounded horn emerging from the center of the headdress. His face is flattened, with a heavy brow and jutting nose and mouth; he has no neck, but instead his head recedes into a rounded body painted as if he is wearing a tunic. A tail that is shaped and painted to look like bird feathers extends from the lower back, while his two legs end in upturned, flipper-like feet, altogether creating a tripod base for the vessel. One of his hands extends outward from the body, holding a serpent. The animal's head looks up at the viewer with a sly look. Brightly painted serpent motifs twine around his headdress and tunic. A small stirrup handle with thin conical spout extends from the back of the figure's body. Size: 4.1" W x 10.75" H (10.4 cm x 27.3 cm); 11" H (27.9 cm) on included custom stand.
This style of painting corresponds to later Nazca styles, when supernatural figures became the center of the artists' attention and their more fantastical elements are exaggerated over their human ones. Nazca pots were made using the coil and smoothing technique, never molded; their wide range of polychrome slips included pigments made with minerals like hematite, limonite, and magnetite, as well as white kaolin clay. Colored portions of the vessel were painted with brushes made from llama and alpaca fur, and then given black outlines. The Nazca replaced post-firing resin painting with pre-firing slip painting making for a great deal of experimentation to learn which slips produced certain colors. Note the painstaking technique required to adorn this vessel with its intricate figural imagery in such a wide range of hues!
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, USA
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