The city of Tiwanaku near the southern shore of Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian highlands has been renowned for its stone architecture and imposing, finely carved stone sculptures since the sixteenth century. A small version of a type of columnar stone image that existed at Tiwanaku in sizes that reach twenty-four feet in height, this figure is thought to depict an elite lineage founder. While the full-size sculptures may have been part of public rituals honoring ancestors, the smaller version may have been for private ceremonies conducted by upper-class families or clans.
Contained within the roughly rectangular confines of the stone block, the figure has a large head topped by a plain cap with a chin strap. Prominent square, slightly bulging eyes have small profile animal heads incised below them like a band of tears. The figure holds two objects—possibly snuff trays—with stylized, symmetrical hands tightly clasped to his unclad chest. A patterned kilt with a delicately incised design of stylized faces and squares in diagonals covers the lower body. It is an arrangement known from textiles of the period. A wide belt encircles the waist to keep the kilt in place. It is decorated with rayed medallions reminiscent of the rayed face of Tiwanaku's principal deity.
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Title:Figure with Ceremonial Objects
Dimensions:H. 18 3/8 x W. 4 7/8 x D. 5 in. (46.7 x 12.4 x 12.7cm)
Credit Line:The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
[Louis Slavitz, New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978
Museum of Primitive Art. "Works from the Permanent Collection: Peru," November 20, 1963–May 10, 1964.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. "Pre-Columbian Art of Latin America," May 14, 1966–June 24, 1966.
Museum of Primitive Art. "The World of Primitive Art," July 12, 1966–September 11, 1966.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of Oceania, Africa and the Americas from The Museum of Primitive Art," May 10–August 17, 1969.
Seattle Art Museum. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," January 5, 1975–February 16, 1975.
American Federation of Arts. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," January 5, 1975–May 15, 1977.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," March 23, 1975–May 4, 1975.
Dallas Museum of Art. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," June 8, 1975–July 20, 1975.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," August 25, 1975–October 10, 1975.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," November 9, 1975–December 21, 1975.
Toledo Museum of Art. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," April 11, 1976–May 25, 1976.
Walker Art Center. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," June 27, 1976–August 8, 1976.
Denver Art Museum. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," September 10, 1976–November 7, 1976.
de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," March 12, 1977–May 15, 1977.
Art Institute of Chicago. "The Ancient Americas," October 10, 1992–January 3, 1993.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Ancient Americas," February 4, 1993–April 18, 1993.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Ancient Americas," June 6, 1993–August 15, 1993.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nelson Rockefeller Vision: In Pursuit of 'The Best' in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas," October 7, 2013–October 9, 2014.
Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primitive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, no. 119.
Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art. Pre-Columbian art of Latin America, 10th century B.C.-16th century A.D. Ithaca: Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, 1966, no. 113.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 504.
American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 40.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 127.
Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, p. 156, no. 116.
Young-Sánchez, Margaret. Tiwanaku: Ancestors of the Inca. Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2004, pp. 35, 195, fig, 2.14.
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