Cylindrical vessel with frontal faces and profile figures

900–200 BCE
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General Description

The Cupisnique culture of north coast Peru shared in the flowering of ancient Peruvian arts during the 1st millennium BCE. Its most distinctive portable art forms were dark gray highly burnished sculptural ceramics and small stone ritual containers. These small vessels likely served as ritual paraphernalia. The gemlike carving of this rare anthracite example depicts low-relief images of frontal, fanged jawless faces with serpents and seated profile figures holding trophy heads. The faces and figures recall the principal deity in the art of Chavín de Huántar, but the exuberant treatment of form identifies the style as Cupisnique. Anthracite, the hardest of the various coals, was used extensively to make the mirrors and undecorated containers found in Cupisnique burials, but it is extremely rare as a material for such a highly decorated object. A beautiful metallic luster rewarded the artist who mastered this friable material.

Excerpt from

Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries.

Fun Facts

  • This vessel is accompanied by a lidded container.