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Rare Moche Sacrificial Rite Vessel with Six Figures

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Americas: Pre Columbian: Pottery: Pre AD 1000: Item # 853880

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Rare Moche Sacrificial Rite Vessel with Six Figures

This rare vessel is from the Moche culture, that dwelled in modern day northern Peru, dates circa 500-700 A.D. and is from the Moche IV phase of ceramic development. This piece is intact with no repair/restoration, is in superb condition, and is approximately 8.25 inches high. This red-brown and cream colored ceramic is a rare piece, as it is a type of vessel known as a "sacrificial rite vessel". This piece has six figures on the vessel including a Moche standing owl deity seen at the center, a sea lion, a cormorant, a hooded male figure, an ocean skate(?), and a crab. All of the five figures that run around the main body of this stirrup-type vessel are all seen emerging from the background, and may represent their emerging into or from the spirit world. These figures are seen in high relief from the main body of the vessel, as they were individually mold made, and this production process took a great deal of skill and time relative to intregrating these images into the production of this ceramic. The standing owl deity seen at the center, which may also represent a priest in costume, is also the Moche deity that is seen in the "Presentation Theme", which is a Moche ceremony of sacrifice as defined by Christopher Donnan. (See "Moche Art of Peru" by Christopher Donnan, University of California, Los Angeles, CA., 1978, pp.158-174.) This Moche owl deity, seen in the "Presentation Theme" as defined by Donnan which is also identified as "Figure B", is a priest seen in an owl-hooded costume holding a goblet with blood from the sacrifice. There are also other known Moche ceramic vessels that portray this figure, as seen in the work noted above (Nos. 248 and 271.). The owl was sacred to the Moche because of it's night vision and sharp hunting skills at night, and because of their nocturnal nature, they were associated with death and were thought to travel between the living and spirit world. There are examples of Moche ceramics with a captive tied to the back of the owl, and this may represent the owl carrying the captive to the other world. The standing owl, seen in combination with the five figures that run around the main body of this vessel, are all related to Moche ceremony and sacrifice. The active red-brown sea lion depicted on this piece shows several round objects, seen at the front of the eye and on the stomach area, and are round stones that the sea lions frequently cough up when they are hunted. These stones were considered sacred by the Moche and were thought to have extremely powerful medicinal properties. The lively artistic style of the sea lion is exceptional, and has a great deal of expression. The hooded male figure, seen at the front of the vessel, may represent a sacrificial victim. It is interesting to note that one of the owl's feet appear to grip and morph into the hood that is seen on the male figure that is placed just below the body of the owl. The crab is also interesting in that the crab has anthropomorphized human-like eyes. The owl is also thought to represent the "magical flight" ecstatic trance state that was performed by Moche shamans and priests. The owl seen on this vessel also has a human designed eye, and may represent a shaman and/or priest in costume, or is in a state of transformation. (This ecstatic trance state was first described in 1638 by Antonio de la Calancha, in the historical Spanish document "Cornica Moralizada del Orden de San Augustin en el Peru, Con Sucesos Egemplares an esta Monarquia", Barcelona, Spain.) The ceramic offered here may represent the owl as presiding over the Moche sacrifices that are offered to the other world, due to the many attributes of the Moche owl deity as noted above, and as such is known as a "sacrificial rite vessel". (One of the few examples of this type of vessel was offered by Arte Primitivo, New York, June 2005, no. 329, $12,000.00-$15,000.00 estimates. The vessel offered by Arte Primitivo is also red-brown and cream colored, 10.5 inches high, and is Moche IV phase. See attached photo.) Ex: S. Benger collection, Germany, circa 1970's. Ex: G. Hirsch Nachfolger, Pre-Columbian Art Auction 257, Sept. 2008, no. 179. Ex: Private New York collection. (Additional documentation is available to the purchaser.) I certify that this piece is authentic as to date, culture, and condition:

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