Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Chancay, ca. 800 to 1200 CE. A tall standing, hollow-molded, bichrome pottery cuchimilco (or star-gazer, characteristically female and detailed with small nipples and outstretched arms with bent elbows and stylized fingers. Her broad, flat face is detailed with coffee-bean-shaped eyes, perforations for ears perhaps intended to hold large disc-shaped earspools, and an upturned, triangular nose which juts out from between the eyes. The head is squared off with perforations in the ears, presumably for attaching decorations, and decorated with a painted headband comprised of stylized geometric motifs. The face is further embellished with a dramatic mask over the eyes and tattoo marks around the mouth. A striking demonstration of the artistic prowess of the Chancay culture. Size: 11.5" W x 24" H (29.2 cm x 61 cm)
Such large Chancay figures are usually female. They characteristically possess a simplified body, small vestigial arms raised to the sides and a flattened face with markings on the chin and brow and a geometric headband. The purpose of such figures is unknown; however, as they have been frequently discovered in Chancay graves, some scholars argue that they may have represented a symbolic female companion to accompany the deceased into the afterworld. This said, a few male/female pairs have been found in gravesites, hence challenging this theory of female companionship.
The Chancay people were exceptional ceramic and textile artisans, and archaeologists have often found cuchimilcos in the tombs of Chancay nobility. Some scholars believe that their outstretched hands were intended to absorb negative energy. Chancay artisans created ceramics that are quite distinctive in form and decoration - finely painted and molded with specific decorative details carefully added by hand as we see in this example.
Provenance: private southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s
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