Bottle, Mythic Figure

Date: 10th–11th century

Geography: Peru, La Leche River

Culture: Lambayeque (Sicán)

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Davis Neal, 1970

Accession Number: 1970.245.37


The Lambayeque Valley was home to the Sicán (or Lambayeque) ceramic style. Developing toward the end of the first millennium A.D., it continued until the end of the fourteenth century when the region was conquered by the expanding Chimú kingdom. Sicán potters produced a range of vessel forms; the most common is the spouted bottle with strap handle and pedestal base, as on this example. Sicán ceramics, well made and elegantly proportioned, tend to be repetitive and highly stylized, characteristics resulting from the almost exclusive use of molds and the emphasis on mass production. Sicán molds were complex and bases, spouts, and chambers could be produced in a single operation.

The most characteristic motif in Sicán art is the frontal face of the so-called Sicán Lord. It is widely seen on ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and mural painting. On this bottle, the Lord has the characteristic almond-shaped eyes, prominent pointed nose, and square, fanged mouth. His ears are triangular projections with circular ear ornaments below with layered tassels. He wears a conical headdress formed by the tapering spout of the bottle. He is flanked by modeled felines sitting on the chamber's shoulder.