Anonymous: Portrait Head Bottle (5th–6th century)


(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

This piece of ceramic is made by the Moche, a civilization from northern Peru which flourished from A.D. 100 to 700 (the civilization is named after the present-day Peruvian city of Moche). These ceramics are very characteristic for this civilization and vary widely in shape and theme. The so-called portrait head vessels, such as this, perhaps depict important individuals in Moche society. This example shows a man who wears a head cloth over his hair. The cloth is decorated with decorated with four serpents, two on each side, who have open mouths, rows of bared teeth, and bifurcated tongues and face each other in the center of the forehead. The face of the man is decorated with red and white bands but also with a triangle from nose to mouth along the nose bridge, and a larger rectangle on each cheek. This decoration is also 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. Ceramic from the 5th-6th century.

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