Portrait Vessel of a Ruler

Moche100 B.C./A.D. 500

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

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 B.C. and A.D. 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, animals, and plants to architecture, ritual events, and royal personages. This portrait vessel portrays individual characteristics—a furrowed brow and full, slightly protruding upper lip. 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 likely 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 items.

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  • Title: Portrait Vessel of a Ruler
  • Creator: Moche
  • Date Created: 100 B.C./A.D. 500
  • Physical Dimensions: 35.6 × 24.1 cm (14 × 9 1/2 in.)
  • Type: Vessel
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Ceramic and pigment
  • Culture/Place: Moche; North coast, Peru
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Kate S. Buckingham Endowment, 1955.2338
  • Artist: Moche