Bottle, Feline Face

Date: 4th–3rd century B.C.

Geography: Peru, Ica Valley

Culture: Paracas

Medium: Ceramic, postfired paint

Dimensions: H. 7 x Diam. 5 1/2 in. (17.78 x 13.97 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Nathan Cummings, 1962

Accession Number: 62.266.72


In the second half of the first millennium B.C., a favorite vessel form on the southern coast of Peru was the double-spout-and-bridge bottle. Often the spout is modeled as a stylized bird head, as here, which functions as a whistle, producing a gentle sound when the liquid inside the bottle is poured out. These bottles are named for the dry Paracas Peninsula and have been found in the valleys to the north and south of it, particularly in the southern Ica Valley. Fired to dark brown tones in a reducing atmosphere, many are decorated with incised feline-based imagery, probably derived from the northern Chavín style. The impressive frontal face of a snarling feline decorates the side of the vessel chamber directly under the whistle spout. The creature's features are geometricized into a series of parallel bands filled in with red and white resin paint. Applied after firing, most of the paint is now missing. Elegantly curved brows over half-closed eyes are framed by straight lines that enclose the face. Small ears extend upward and a wide mouth band displays pointed upper and lower canines. A small modeled pug nose appears between the eyes.