Description This “stirrup-spout” vessel has been highly polished and incised with face of a supernatural creature shown in profile. It seems to combine elements of some of ancient Peru’s fiercest predators, with an eye (at top) which is hooded like that of a crocodile, but the prominent fangs of a feline, probably a jaguar. Cupisnique ceramics frequently show jaguars and felines, which were symbols of power associated with rulers. The “stirrup spout” was one of the most common vessel forms in pre-Columbian Peru and the Andean area. A short spout at the top is attached to two tubes which join with the vessel itself. The form is reminiscent of a stirrup for horseback riding, hence the name. The resulting container was beautiful and versatile, since the main vessel could be shaped into many different forms, with a surface that was either carefully polished or highly textured. These vessels were also practical: in the extremely dry deserts of Peru, such a narrow opening prevented evaporation of the liquid held within. The complex shape of the neck also meant that it was easy to carry: two such vessels could be tied to the ends of a cord, to be slung over a person’s shoulder or a llama’s back. Large numbers of vessels like these have been found in burials of elites on the north Coast of Peru beginning about 1800 BCE.
Provenance [Dr. Ernest Lira, Houston and Denver (?), or Dr. Peter Almendariz, Denver (?), or M. Brenner, Geneva (?)]; Paul Shepard, Tucson, Arizona [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Economos Works of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Private collection, 1988, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2009, by gift.
Credit Anonymous gift, 2009
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