Description This Tembladera-style Chavín work depicts a feline rendered in relatively high relief, alternating with a cactus form that may refer to the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus. Chavín is considered the mother civilization of the South-American Andes, and is often compared to the Olmec of Mexico in that both cultures established many patterns of art, architecture, and culture by 1000 BC, that prevailed until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. Stirrup-spout vessels like this example were made by the Chavín (and many other South-American peoples) using a number of molds, with details modeled by hand. Although we do not know what was stored in these vessels, suggestions include corn beer or "chicha," a native Andean fermented beverage. Chavín stirrup-spout vessels vary in both their architecture (spout-width, shape, direction) and type of decoration. Many combine incised design with modeled form, as in this example. Felines of the type depicted on this vessel were important in Chavín art and culture because they were associated with the ruling houses. In nature such animals are often excellent hunters who occupy the top of the food chain, qualities also valued in human rulers. Felines, like jaguars and pumas, were also thought to enjoy great spiritual force; shamans were believed to transform into such creatures.
Provenance Mr. Alexis Forrester, London, before the late 1970s [mode of acquisition unknown]; Economos Works of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Private collection, 1991, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2009, by gift.
Credit Anonymous gift, 2009
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