The conical shape of this bottle’s spout and its annular base relate it to the Lambayeque culture that flourished on the north coast of Peru long before Inka times. For years, objects from this culture were confused with that of the Chimu, on the basis that both not only feature spectacular gold work but also share the same ceramic technology leading to the elaboration of fine blackware. Their mold-made vessels were burnished to a low sheen prior to firing and their dark color was achieved through a reduction technique, a process that adds more fuel to the kiln as it reaches its peak temperature, while at the same time reducing the air flow that supplies oxygen to the fire. Later studies showed that despite the similar technical aspects of the vessels, each culture had its own stylistic and iconographic peculiarities.
Marine fauna and marine birds in particular, were a popular theme in the art of the north coast of Peru. It appears on ceramics and many other two and three-dimensional objects. In this vessel, representing a cormorant, the slight bulge in the strap handle behind the bird’s neck conceals a small whistle mechanism. The sound produced there by an exchange of air from spout to chamber to whistle perhaps was intended to emulate the call of the bird
Boone, Elizabeth Hill (ED.) 1996 Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks; No. 1. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. vol. 1, p. 274, pl. 75.
Davies, Nigel 1997 The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru. Penguin Books, London; New York. fig. 19.
Previously in the collection of Barbara and Justin Kerr, 1968.
Gift to Dumbarton Oaks by Barbara and Justin Kerr, 1989.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.