About this artwork
Among the most distinctive art objects of the ancient Peruvians were ceramic vessels produced by the artists of the Moche culture, which flourished on the north coast between about 100 BC and AD 500. Remarkable for their sculptural naturalism, these stirrup-spout bottles were molded without the aid of a potter’s wheel and painted in earth tones. Moche potters represented everything about their world, from domestic scenes to architecture, ritual events and royal personages, and animals and plants. This portrait vessel portrays individual characteristics—the furrowed brow and full, slightly protruding upper lip—as well as general features recognizable among Peruvian Indians today. With his commanding expression and proud bearing, the depicted ruler conveys an indelible sense of the power of Moche leaders. His elite status is further indicated by his fine headdress, decorated with the geometric motifs of Moche textiles, and by his elongated ear ornaments and the traces of facial paint on his forehead and cheeks. Vessels such as this were placed in burials as funerary offerings, but before they accompanied an individual to the grave, they may also have been sent as emblems of royal authority from a center of power to neighboring districts along with gifts of textiles and other ceremonial presents.
- Portrait Vessel of a Ruler
- Peruvian North Coast (Object made in)
- 100 BCE–500 CE
- Ceramic and pigment
- 35.6 × 24.1 cm (14 × 9 1/2 in.)
- Kate S. Buckingham Endowment