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Chimú, Late Intermediate Period
900-1470 CE
11 cm x 10.2 cm (4 5/16 in. x 4 in.)

Not on view


The birds executed in a low-relief band around this small cup reflect a typical artistic contrivance of the Chimu metalsmiths: while the body of each bird is in profile, its tail is turned at a 90 percent angle relative to its axis. This Chimu canon of showing composite-angle images well may have been inherited from their Moche ancestors who employed the device as well.

This cup was raised from a single piece of sheet metal. The hammer blow facets that resulted are no longer visible; they have been planished flat and smooth. The thickness of the vessel body is 0.015 cm, whereas at the rim the metal measures 0.134 cm, or roughly ten times as thick. The rim edge is flat and square. Its thickness, achieve in part by upsetting –compressing the metal by hammering the rim back onto itself- lends rigidity and strength to the vessel.

The band of relief designs was raised by working the sheet from what is now the interior of the vessel. This may have been accomplished shortly before the cup took final form, when the mouth was somewhat more open and the sides less vertical, allowing greater freedom to manipulate the tracing tools. These where highly polished, burnishing types of tool that pressed the metal onto a bed or backing of resilient material. These tools were not hammered.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 70, cat. 394.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1947 Indigenous Art of the Americas: Collection of Robert Woods Bliss. National Gallery of Art; Smithsonian institution, Washington, D.C., p. 30, 143, cat. 145.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 277, cat. 326, pl. CXXXII.

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. 262-3, pl. 67.

Greenwood, Mrs. Hugh A. (ED.) 1941 Special Exhibit of Latin American Silver, October 14-November 15 1941. Pan American Union, Washington, D.C., p. 1, cat. 19.

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology 1940 An Exhibition of Pre-Columbian Art. William Hayes Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., cat. 183.

Exhibition History
"An Exhibition of Pre-Columbian Art", Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA, 1/15 - 3/2/1940 (catalogue # 183).

"Special Exhibit of Latin American Silver", Pan American Union, Washington DC, 10/14 - 11/15/1941(catalogue # 19).

"Ancient American Art", Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA, April - June 1942; M. H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA, July - August 1942; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR, September - October 1942 (catalogue # 98).

"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to July 1954, January 1956 to July 1962.

Acquisition History
Formerly in the collection of Dr. Edward Gaffron, Berlin (collector).

Purchased from Dr. Gaffron, Berlin (collector), by Joseph Brummer, Paris (dealer),1912.

Purchased from Joseph Brummer, Paris (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, December 26, 1913.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1913-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.