Female effigy jar

Paracas
Early Horizon (late phase)
200–1 B.C.


Object Place: Peru, South Coast

Dimensions

40 x 28 cm (15 3/4 x 11 in.)

Accession Number

2004.2205

Medium or Technique

Earthenware: red, ochre, black and white post-fire resin paint

On View

Ancient South America Gallery (Gallery LG33)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Earthenware

Pottery jar modeled and painted in the form of a human female figure. Her long braids form the jar’s two handles, and the vessel’s orifice is her open mouth. The paint is made from plant resin and mineral pigments, the typical medium for decorating Paracas ceramics from the later centuries of the Early Horizon.

The form of this effigy vessel recalls Paracas mummy bundles that contain the flexed body of the deceased wrapped in many layers of plain and embroidered textiles. The woman’s up-turned head and open mouth suggest a ritual outcry or petition, the emotion of her invocation heightened by the tear-like rectangles below her eyes. Many-headed serpents embellish her mantle, their curvilinear forms recalling the embroidered images on Paracas cloth.

A tiny hole is found near the base, perhaps the result of an iron rod used by grave robbers to prod the desert sands in search of burials.


This vessel recalls Paracas mummy bundles, in which the flexed body of the deceased was wrapped in plain and embroidered textiles to create a large, ovoid form. This figure’s upturned head and open mouth suggest a ritual petition or outcry, her emotion heightened by the tear-shaped rectangles below her eyes. Many-headed serpents embellish her mantle, their curvilinear forms resembling the embroidered images on Paracas textiles.

Provenance

About 1968, sold by a private collector, New York, to Landon T. Clay, New Hampshire [see note]; 2004, year-end gift of Landon T. Clay to the MFA. (Accession Date: February 23, 2005)

NOTE: The vessel was first lent to the MFA on July 31, 1974. At the time of the gift, the donor stated that he bought it from a Peruvian medical student in New York in 1968.

Credit Line

Gift of Landon T. Clay