Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1991
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
In Andean South America, there is an indigenous tradition for the ritual use of coca leaves. In Precolumbian times the chief method of using coca was to place a quid of leaves into the mouth and add a small amount of powdered lime, made from calcined seashells. Standard coca-chewing paraphernalia included a small bag for the leaves and a container and a spatula or spoon for the lime. The utensils could be quite elaborate and made of precious materials. Lime containers from Colombia, known as "poporos," were often cast in gold in the form of nude human figures or as flasks incorporating raised nude images on each side. Both figures and flasks exhibit great elegance of conception, manufacture, and finish. The shouldered bottle here, adorned on either side with a female figure, still contains powdered lime.
Juan Heiniger, Medellin, Colombia, acquired by 1944; Collection Hoffmann, Geneva, Switzerland; Jan Mitchell, New York, acquired by 1969, until 1991
Jones, Julie. "The Jan Mitchell Collection." In The Art of Precolumbian Gold. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985, 28, 138-139.