MOCHICA - Huaco Retrato
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MOCHICA - Huaco Retrato

Galerie Mermoz

Date 100 - 700 A.D

Dimension 30.3 x 17.2 x 17.1 cm (11⁷/₈ x 6³/₄ x 6³/₄ inches)

Huaco Retrato - Portrait Vase with Stirrup-Shaped Handle and Neck - MOCHICA - Peru - 100 - 700 A.D - Pre-Columbian

Height : 30,3 cm

Width : 17,2 cm

Depth : 17,1 cm

Hollow terracotta with a red and cream color engobe.

Documents (originals) provided to the acquirer:

- Certificate of authenticity of the Galerie Mermoz,

Santo Micali, Expert, (CNE) Compagnie Nationale des Experts

- Certificate of Art Loss Register

- Passport of free circulation

- Thermoluminescence report

- Invoice

This remarkable vase is the work of the Moché culture, also known as Mochica, a brilliant civilization that developed between 100 and 700 AD in the desert valleys of northern Peru. It belongs to the corpus of "Huaco retrato", in other words, portrait vases, true symbols of the Moche ceremonial ceramic art, presenting a sculptural quality and an exceptional realism.


The vitality and precision of these works suggest that they represent real individuals - a ruler, a priest, a warrior - or at least different social types. In any case, these vases give us, better than any other medium, a rare opportunity to imagine the physiognomy of the men of the time, going so far as to give us the feeling of being in front of a living character; in this they are particularly precious.  


The size of this work, which is among the largest models, and the care taken in its manufacture confirm that it is a ceremonial object, having been used in rituals. It is commonly believed that these fine vessels contained chicha, a type of corn beer of very ancient origins, consumed during ceremonies.


After being used as such, this piece was likely buried in the tomb of a dignitary as an offering among other objects that made up the extensive burial trousseau of members of the elite. There is no evidence, that it represents the individual with whom it was buried, as portraits of men were found next to women and portraits of the same individual in several separate graves.


It should be noted that beyond their religious use, these vases were probably also used as social and political tools during the lifetime of their owner. As objects of prestige, they demonstrated their membership in the aristocracy, reinforcing the power of those who owned them and controlling the production of the ceramic workshops that supplied the ceremonial centers.

In formal terms, the face is that of a middle-aged man, as it usually is. To date, no portrait of a woman has been found. The features are not idealized but strongly individualized. The artist went so far as to restore scarification marks, visible above the mouth and below the nose. The eyes are stretched and half-open and the eyelids wonderfully modeled.


The nose is blunt. Its point is strong and round and the opening of its strongly curved nostrils is hollowed. The furrow underneath is also deepened. The mouth is closed and the lips are thick and perfectly drawn. The chin is pointed. The relief of the cheekbones and the hollow of the fleshy cheeks is noticeable and the artist has drawn a slight furrow on both sides of the nose and mouth for even more realism. The ears are hidden under what appear to be very elongated ear ornaments.

Date: 100 - 700 A.D

Dimension: 30.3 x 17.2 x 17.1 cm (11⁷/₈ x 6³/₄ x 6³/₄ inches)

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Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and South American

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