Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Nose Ornament with Intertwined Serpents

Date:
390–450
Geography:
Peru
Culture:
Moche (Loma Negra)
Medium:
Gold, silver; eyes restored
Dimensions:
H. 4 15/16 x W. 8 5/16 x D. 7/16 in. (12.5 x 21.1 x 1.1 cm)
Classification:
Metal-Ornaments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1225
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
Nose ornaments made of precious metals were worn by the elite in Peru beginning in the middle of the first millennium B.C.; they remained in fashion for over a thousand years, until about 700 A.D. Among the Moche people of the north coast, they were an essential part of royal costume. This handsome crescent is made of silver and came from the site of Loma Negra in the Piura Valley. It is so big it would have covered the wearer's lower face when suspended from the nasal septum. It has a gold border of intertwined "eared" serpents, their profile faces with toothy mouths and split tongues appearing at the top on either side of the ornament. Attached to the serpent bodies with small pieces of gold wire are numerous gold disks, which would have moved and glittered with the slightest movement of the wearer. The "eared" serpent was a mythological creature often depicted in ancient Peruvian art with feline characteristics such as whiskers and fangs.

Moche metalworkers often combined two metals on fancy ornaments. In addition to the aesthetic appeal, joining gold and silver may have had symbolic meaning, perhaps expressing ideas of duality and complementarity.
[Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, until 1969]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1969, on loan to the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

Disselhoff, Hans-Dietrich. "Metallschmuck aus der Loma Negra, Vicus (Nord-Peru)." Antike Welt vol. 3 (1972), pp. 43–53.

Jones, Julie. "Mochica Works of Art in Metal: A Review." In Pre-Columbian Metallurgy of South America, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1979.

Lechtman, Heather, Antonieta Erling, and Edward J. Barry Jr. "New Perspectives on Moche Metallurgy; Techniques of Gilding Copper at Loma Negra, Northern Peru." American Antiquity vol. 47 (1982).

Schorsch, Deborah. "Silver-and-Gold Moche Artifacts from Loma Negra, Peru." Metropolitan Museum Journal vol. 33 (1998).

Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring 2002), p. 19.



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