Click an image to view a larger version
This miniature figurine has a wood core covered with natural resin used to adhere the shell and turquoise inlays. It general size, posture and attire are similar to turquoise figurines found in archaeological context at the Huari site of Piquillacta. The figure has a round helmet-shaped hat, wrapped in gold foil, of the type worn by high-ranking individuals during the Inca period as shown in the famous Guaman Poma de Ayala drawings.
This object was inlaid to achieve a multicolored effect, and is was used as a pendant as a hole for suspension runs from side to side through the top portion of the figure’s headdress. Of the several types of shell that were used for the inlays, the most important is the bivalve Spondylus princeps that was used for the face, hair, belt and shoulder mantle.
As a luxury import from Ecuador, Spondylus is most frequently found in offerings and in burial contexts in a variety of forms, ranging from the unretouched bivalve to finely worked pendants, beads, and figurines. The Spondylus on this figurine suggests that this pendant was highly valued and probably owned by a high-ranking member of Wari society.
Bazán, Pedro 2001 Wari: Arte Precolombino Peruano: Centro Cultural El Monte, Sevilla, Enero-Marzo 2001. Colección América. Fundación El Monte, Sevilla. p. 247.
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. 66, cat. 368.
Bergh, Susan E. 2012 Figurines. In Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, Susan E. Bergh, ed., pp. 232-241. Thames & Hudson; The Cleveland Museum of Art, New York and Cleveland. p. 240, fig. 232.
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. 337, pl. CXXXIII.
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. 285, cat. 337, pl. CXXXIII.
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. 169-171, pl. 39.
Quilter, Jeffrey 2005 Treasures of the Andes: The Glories of Inca and Pre-Columbian South America. Duncan Baird, London. p. 114.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, February 1954 to July 1962.
"Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes", The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, 10/28/2012 - 1/6/2013; Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, FL, 2/10/2013 - 5/19/2013; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, 6/16/2013 - 9/8/2013.
Purchased from Good Neighbor Imports Inc., New York, 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.