Pair of Figures

Date: 12th–14th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Chancay

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H.. 7 in. (18 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Sculpture

Credit Line: Bequest of Jane Costello Goldberg, from the Collection of Arnold I. Goldberg, 1986

Accession Number: 1987.394.635, .636


After the influence of Wari waned, several ceramic styles evolved on the Pacific coast that emphasized mass production and the fabricating use of molds and stamps. In the valleys north of Lima, the Chancay people produced ceramics that are very distinctive in form and decoration. Painted predominantly in dark brown-black on white, the ceramics appear sloppy by comparison with many earlier and contemporary styles. However, the spontaneity of the decoration, the restrained color scheme, and the often bold painting lend the Chancay wares considerable charm. In addition to vessels, Chancay potters produced ceramic sculptures of humans and animals. Human figures, often made in explicitly male-female pairs, originally must have worn clothing. These two could have been made in the same basic mold with specific anatomical and decorative details added by hand. Both figures wear the same round ear ornaments—those of the female are bigger—but different headdresses. The corner-pointed hat worn by the male figure implies Wari influence since such hats were typical of Wari costume.

The function of the sculptures in ancient times is not known. Perhaps they were placed in tombs as companions or guardians of the dead.