Description This vessel, like several other known examples from the Cupisnique culture, shows an acrobat or contorsionist, in the midst of a backbend. In the acrobat’s hands are two mysterious objects, one perhaps a rattle or noisemaker. Therefore, the vessel’s general form may represent an ancient ritual whose significance is now lost. 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 The Merrin Gallery, New York [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Private collection, 1994, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2009, by gift.
Credit Anonymous gift, 2009
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