Description This vessel shows a feline, probably a jaguar, devouring a snake. Both their bodies are covered in incised markings, probably alluding to the jaguar’s spots and the pattern of the snakeskin. The humanlike positioning and proportions of the larger creature’s body suggests that this may not represent an actual animal, but a shaman who has taken on the speed, power, and acute reflexes of the jaguar to vanquish his enemies. 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 Sale, Sotheby's, New York, May 16, 1989, lot 3; Private collection, May 16, 1989, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2009, by gift.
Credit Anonymous gift, 2009
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