Ancient Forms for the Modern Eye April 2018 - Page 145

Moche Sea Lion Head Effigy Stirrup Vessel
with Fish Between Teeth
Early Intermediate Period – Middle Horizon: 200 – 800 A.D.
Ceramic: Redware with cream paint
Overall: 10 1/2 x 6 x 9 in. (26.7 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm)
Sea creatures were popular themes for Moche ceramists – sea lions,
seals, fish, sharks, sea birds and live shells were all subjects realistically
rendered on many stirrup spout bottles. This vessel is as much a
composition of volumetric hemispheres and curves as a portrayal of a
sea lion with a fish in its mouth. The curvature of the stirrup nicely
echoes the swelling sections of the vessel’s body. The Moche were unique
among Andean cultures in their ability to realistically portray the world
around them. Although their subject matter can be esoteric, including
anthropomorphic demon creatures and deities, there was clearly a genre of
realistic representations of animals, fish, birds and plant forms, as well
as scenes of daily life. This sea lion’s head is faithfully rendered with its
little ears, big eyes and large front teeth.


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