It is not always easy for a person of the 21st century to understand the meaning of artworks that come from foreign cultures and nations. According to Trever (2019), the Moche civilization was one of the representatives, the works of which “appear to modern eyes as a grotesque curiosity” (23). Along with the famous Hearst bottle, many objects of art deserve attention and recognition. In this paper, formal analysis and a visual description of a jar with figures and faces will be used to comprehend some concepts of Moche culture, its symbolism, and interest in natural forms.
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At this moment, the Museo Larco (located in Pueblo Libre District of Lima, Peru) is the place where the collection of Moche portrait vessels was gathered by its founder Rafael Larco Herrera. A distinctive feature of this collection and one of the jars chosen for analysis is pareidolia, a tendency to perceive inanimate objects in a specific way, as Trever (2019) says, to see images in organics. The ancient citizens of Peru considered potatoes as a crucial crop as it was able to grow at heights. Therefore, many sculptures during the period between 200 and 850 CE were made in the form of a potato as a symbol of richness and prosperity.
A visual description of the Moche artwork should be out of the ordinary imagination. As it is seen, the author of the jar was fascinated by the role of the potato in civilization. The material of the chosen vessel is ceramic, and its height is 26.5 cm. At first sight, it seems that a person looks at a tuber of a wrong form, with its “lumps, rents, and swells” being chaotically underlined (Trever 2019). In several seconds, it becomes evident that there is a face on the figure. The mouth and eyes are wide open, and two big nostrils prove that it is a man. With time, it becomes possible to observe more faces of bother genders on the same jar. Several people are involved in some activities, which proves the desire of the Moche people to move and develop. Still, there is one male leader who observes and shares an opinion with his mouth open. The location of the heads could tell about the positions people took during their lives.
Certain attention should be paid to the use of colors. On the one hand, there are several scratches around the figure that remind human hands or animal claws. The author did not use additional colors for these elements but tried to underline the role of nature in the human body. However, the ceramic vessel was performed in several tones of the same color, and most changes are on the images of human heads. There is no specific division between figures, which tells about the necessity to remember the Moche people’s unity.
In general, the idea of Moche vessels remains to be poorly investigated and understood by today’s society. Although the attention to botanical forms and the necessity to introduce human actions create some preternatural images, it is possible to realize that Moche culture deserves attention and respect either in society or in art. The jar with figures and faces is not simple, and Moche vessels tell the history of the nation through a variety of positions, looks, and sizes.
Trever, Lisa. 2019. “A Moche Riddle in Clay: Object Knowledge and Art Work in Ancient Peru.” The Art Bulletin 101 (4): 18-38.