Jaguar Whistling Jar


Not on view

This recumbent ceramic feline, made by artists of Peru’s Wari culture in the second half of the first millennium, features a spout on the animal’s back and a handle (or "bridge") connecting it to the back of the creature’s hollow head, near the opening for the whistle. When the bottle is partially filled with liquid and tilted forward, air is forced out and a sound is emitted.

The feline was painted with polychrome slips (aqueous suspensions of clay particles with different pigments) to achieve a tan coat with black spots and a cream underbelly, with a maroon spout and bridge. The striped tail is painted on the creature’s proper right side, and small paws are modeled under the chest, and one hind leg is modeled on the animal’s proper left side. The figure is highly burnished, that is, the moist clay was rubbed with a stone or other implement before firing, yielding a more reflective surface.

The feline’s striped or ringed tail suggests that it may be a pampas cat. Felines are often symbols of power in ancient Andean art, and the open maw with exposed fangs of the present example is reminiscent of standing and reclining jaguars created artists as early as 1500 BC on Peru’s north and south coasts (see, for example, other works in the Met’s collection, including accession numbers 1979.206.1148; 67.167.11; and 67.167.12).

The Wari (also spelled Huari) culture developed in the southern highlands of Peru around 500 AD and eventually spread, first to the south coast and then progressively northward until they dominated territory as far north as present-day Trujillo and as far south as the Chilean border before collapsing around AD 1000. In addition to their highly burnished, polychrome ceramics, Wari artists are known for their finely woven textiles in brilliant colors (see, for example, a woven tunic in the Met’s collection, accession number 1979.206.461), as well as their beautiful lapidary work in stone and shell (see, for example, a pair of ear ornaments in the Met’s collection, accession number 1978.412.216).

Description written by the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas

Ceramic, polychrome, Wari

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