This sculptural, highly naturalistic bottle is a work of Moche, or Mochica culture, which flourished for nearly seven centuries on the northern coast of Peru, a narrow desert strip where water was as rare and precious as gold, and that this brilliant people has transformed into an agricultural oasis thanks to large-scale hydraulic works.
This valuable piece belongs to the repertoire of fine ceramics, for ceremonial use. She probably belonged to an important person before being buried in a grave as an offering. It represents a buffalo toad, an endemic species in this region of Peru, so called because of its size. A volume of which the animal plays when it is threatened, inflating like a balloon to appear more impressive, and which the master potter has here remarkably restored.
The representation of a toad may seem anecdotal but in the context of ancient Peru, it is not. In an arid and inhospitable world, everything that could affect the rain, the growth of the earth and beyond on existence after death, had, in fact, a sacred value. This was the case with toads, which by their characteristics were perceived as “rainmakers” and “soul smugglers”.
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