This is a stunning piece of Moche art, very large and decorated with most interesting scenes. It dates to the Middle Moche period, ca. 200-500 C.E. and has a star provenance.
Flared bowls like this, usually called a florero, often include a rattle: they have a hollow pedestal base with a few small openings, filled with ceramic pellets that make a rattling sound when the vessel is shaken. The same applies to our vessel. The outside of the base is painted a brownish red and is decorated with several instances of the so-called step motif in which the hypotenuse of a triangle consists of steps. These are probably a symbol for the mountain and/or the temple. The outside of the flaring part of the vessel is painted with a cream engobe and has a horizontal band in red-brown.
The most interesting part is the inside; vessels like this were almost invariably painted inside the rim. On our bowl the decoration is rather complex. There is a whole frieze of mythical or fantastic creatures and aquatic motifs. The centre of the scene is a shaman, standing with wide open mouth. He wears a head band with two protruding elements, possibly feathers; another band around his waist ends in two dotted ribbons which both terminate in an animal head. The shaman is engaged in fishing by means of a long rope, one end of which also terminates in an animal head, whereas a large hook is fixed to the other end. He has just caught a huge and quite impressing fish, the body of which is decorated with short stripes, probably indicating the scales. The remainder of the frieze is filled with several fish, some of which have a savage looking head. Some bird-like creatures, two of them clothed and with wings, are watching.
See Christopher B. Donnan, Moche Art of Peru. Pre-Columbian Symbolic Communication (Los Angeles, Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1978), fig. 70 for similar finely decorated vessels.
Circa 200-500 C.E.
Height 28.5 cm, diameter of bowl 31 cm.
Dutch private collection, acquired at Christie’s Paris, December 2004; before that German private collection of Dr. Hans Dietrich Disselhof, acquired in the 1950s. Dr. Disselhof 1899-1975) was a scholar who wrote many books on the Pre-Columbian world, and was director of the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Germany).
Some repair to the base with no new material, just reglued and repainted over the breaks; a few breaks in the flaring rim reglued with no new material; a little bit of repainting in the sinuous body of the fish and by the hand of the shaman holding the lasso. Else in excellent condition with a lovely brown, orange and cream engobe and brown-red engobe decorations.