Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait Head Bottle

5th–6th century
Overall: 12 3/4 in. (32.39 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Cummings, 1964
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
The Moche peoples were prolific potters. They produced thousands of ceramic vessels—primarily stirrup-spout bottles—for use in rituals and mortuary events. The so-called portrait head vessels, such as this, which may depict important individuals in Moche society perhaps at different stages of their lives, have distinctive facial features with varied expressions. Age differences appear as well, for instance, wrinkles for age were modeled onto the face before firing. This portrait head wears a head cloth over his hair; a band decorated with four serpents, two on each side, is worked around the crown of the head. The profile serpents have open mouths, rows of bared teeth, and bifurcated tongues. They face each other in the center of the forehead. The face is painted—along the nose bridge, a triangle from nose to mouth, and a larger rectangle on each cheek. This pattern is seen on prominent people and even on major gods in Moche art. Under the chin and around the neck is a series of stepped motifs.
Bruno J. Wassermann-San Blas Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina, acquired by 1938, until 1954; Nathan Cummings, Chicago, 1954–1964

Wassermann-San Blás, Bruno John. Céramicas del antiguo Perú de la colección Wassermann-San Blás. Buenos Aires: Bruno John Wassermann-San Blás, 1938, no. 266, p. 153.

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