The stirrup-spout vessel--so named for the similarity of the spout form to that of a riding saddle stirrup--was a much-favored bottle shape in Precolumbian Peru. It has been suggested that the peculiarity of the double-branch/single-spout shape was to prevent evaporation of the liquids it contained. The stirrup spout was used on ceramic vessels in northern Peru for about twenty-five hundred years. Early in the first millennium B.C., the stirrup-spout bottle was elaborated into sculptural depictions of a wide range of visual phenomena. The human figure appeared among them in many roles and guises, some seemingly "everyday" in aspect, while others were of a more noticeably ritual or sacred character.
The figure wears a headdress that has a small feline face at the center. Such animal-fronted headdresses were commonly depicted in Moche art. They are believed to have been emblematic of rank or profession. This figure may originally have had inlaid eyes and more ornaments on its nose, ears, and wrists.
Honorable Richard Gibbs Collection, Peru, 1875–1879; Henry G. Marquand, New York, 1880–1882
Donnan, Christopher B. Moche Art of Peru: Pre-Columbian Symbolic Communication. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, 1978, p. 10, fig. 11.
Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 111, p. 150.