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An unusually complex image is represented on this steatite cup. It shows two anthropomorphic figures in profile grasping a sinuous rope that curves and twists around the exterior and bottom of the cup. The many loops of the rope illustrate the mastery of the Cupisnique artist in using superposition to give a sense of depth to the two dimensional representation. The rope not only overlaps itself and the anthropomorphic figures, but also the undecorated raised band that rings the mouth of the vessel. The extension of the rope to the bottom of the vessel contrasts with the practice on other cups of decorating the bottom with an independent motif or leaving it undecorated.
The two anthropomorphic figures are shown suspended in the air with the legs slightly flexed and their feet tilted at an angle. This position suggests some kind of movement, as if the figure are jumping, flying or dancing. The two figures are nearly identical and face in the same direction but there is a significant difference in detail between both: one has a snake head hanging from it waist while the other does not.
The idea of linking repeated motif together with angular or curvilinear lines is known for Cupisnique pottery, and string of mythical or severed heads were particularly popular decoration for the chamber of classic Cupisnique stirrup-spouted bottles. Like most of the iconography of this culture the image on this cup remains elusive.
Bennett, Wendell C. 1954 Ancient Arts of the Andes. Museum of Modern Art, New York. fig. 13.
Bennett, Wendell C. 1955 32 Masterworks of Andean Art from the Exhibition Ancient Arts of the Andes. New York. fig. 5, 5a.
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. 62, cat. 345.
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. 272, cat. 298, pl. CXX, fig. 26.
Bliss, Robert Woods 1959 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. 2nd ed. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 280, cat. 298, pl. CXX, fig. 26.
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. 97-100, pl. 13.
Bushnell, Geoffrey H. S. 1965 Ancient Arts of the Americas. Praeger World of Art Series. F. A. Praeger, New York. p. 153.
Christensen, Erwin O. 1955 Primitive Art. Studio Publication. Crowell, New York. p. 220, fig. 223.
Fux, Peter (ED.) 2013 Chavin: Peru's Enigmatic Temple in the Andes. Scheidegger & Spiess; Museum Rietberg, Zurich. p. 222-223, cat. 3.
Fux, Peter (ED.) 2015 Chavín. 1st ed. Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima. p. 224-225, cat. 3.
Lapiner, Alan C. 1976 Pre-Columbian Art of South America. H. N. Abrams, New York. fig. 119-120.
Lavallée, Danièle and Luis Guillermo Lumbreras 1985 Les Andes De La Préhistoire Aux Incas. Le Monde Précolombien; 3. Gallimard, Paris. p. 32.
Rowe, John Howland 1962 Chavin Art, an Inquiry into Its Form and Meaning. Museum of Primitive Art, New York. fig. 39.
"Ancient Arts of the Andes", Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1/26 - 3/21/1954; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, 4/21 - 6/13/1954; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, 7/23 - 9/19/1954.
"Art and Life in Old Peru", American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, 9/25 - 12/31/1961.
"Gods With Fangs", Museum of Primitive Art, New York, NY, 2/21 - 5/6/1962 (catalogue # 47).
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, January 1956 to July 1962.
"Chavìn: Peru's Mysterious Temple in the Andes", Museum Rietberg, Zurich, Switzerland, 11/23/12 – 3/10/13.
"Drink and Prosper", Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, 4/1/2015 to 8/24/2015.
Purchased from Walram von Schoeler, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1948.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1948-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.