Pre-Columbian, North/Central Peru, Chimu, ca. 1100 to 1400 CE. A silver (81%) human effigy kero or drinking vessel comprised of silver sheet, hammer-molded to form a drinking cup depicting a stylized hunchback figure presenting bold repousse features defining the face and sitting with bent knees and hands placed across the abdomen. The figure's face presents with ovoid eyes, a pronounced nose, well-defined nasolabial folds, an open mouth as if singing, chanting or speaking, a strong jaw line, and a tiered coiffure, all beneath a flared headdress that also serves as the mouth of the vessel. Silver quality: 81%; Size: 3.25" in diameter x 5.25" H (8.3 cm x 13.3 cm); weight: 139.7 grams
Scholars have theorized that in the Pre-Columbian world deformities such as hunchbacks were regarded as signs that these individuals were special, touched by the deities, and as such they were oftentimes chosen to be shaman. Look closely at the upper end of the hunch on this gentleman's back, and you will see a decorative strand. This in addition to the magnificent headdress suggests that his was a person of import.
The kero form was also created by Chimu as well as Huari, Inca and other peoples of the ancient Americas. However, the indigenous of Peru created these for more than domestic purposes. Rather, they were used during life and after life at funerary ceremonies that incorporated intricate religious libations and imbibing rites. To create this piece, the ancient metalsmith hammered a piece of silver into a very thin sheet, approximately the size of the finished work. Then, the artisan used fine-grained stone anvils and hammer stones made of hematite or green porphyry, sometimes with animal hide attached, using a wooden template to create the form and its repousse ornamentation, as the metalsmith hammered the silver sheet upon the wooden template.
Provenance: private California, USA Collection
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