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Lobster Effigy Vessel
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Lobster Effigy Vessel

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description The coast of Peru is bathed in the Humboldt Current, which sweeps cold water from the Antarctic along the South American coast and northwards to Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. Rich in plankton and other marine animals, the Humboldt Current supports one of the world's most fertile fishing grounds. Early Andean peoples harvested its bounty, with fish and shellfish being a primary source of protein not only for coastal peoples but also those in the highlands. This lobster effigy vessel, with its small bridge-spout handle typical of Nazca ceramics, is a masterful example of the ceramic effigy vessel form.

From the Conservation Lab: Beyond What Meets the Eye. Conservators routinely use two important tools: ultraviolet light (UV) and x-radiography to study the surface and structure of ceramic vessels. On initial examination, this lobster vessel appears to be complete, a rare instance for an almost 2,000-year-old ceramic. When we looked at the surface under UV light, however, areas of repair at the bridge-spout handle and pincer arms are indicated by their fluorescing a bright whitish color. X-rays allow us to look inside the vessel and see how it was made. Variations in the thickness of the ceramic wall (light and dark) indicate that it is handmade. The pincers were made separately and attached to the main vessel.

  • Art of Ancient America, 1500 B.C.-1400 A.D.. Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe. 1998-2008.
  • Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas: The John Bourne Collection Gift. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville. 2012-2013.
Provenance Economos Works of Art [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; John G. Bourne, 1990s, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2009, by gift.
Credit Gift of John Bourne, 2009

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AD 300-600 (Early Intermediate Phases IIII-IV)
earthenware, slip paint
Accession Number
H: 5 5/16 x L: 9 1/2 x W: 4 1/8 in. (13.49 x 24.13 x 10.41 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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