Feline Bottle

Date: 12th–15th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Chimú

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: Overall: 11 1/8 in. (28.26 cm)
Other: 10 1/8 in. (25.72 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Cummings, 1964

Accession Number: 64.228.17


As early as the beginning of the second millennium B.C., the peoples in northern Peru produced ceramics of remarkable technical refinement, aesthetic appeal, and iconographic complexity. By the time this vessel was made—almost 3,000 years later—ceramic production emphasized efficiency and repetition rather than artistic and technological excellence. Although Chimú potters used the forms, imagery, and techniques employed by their predecessors, their wares appear mass-produced in comparison. Some vessels, even though made in molds, as is the present example, are well modeled with perfectly finished surfaces. Their quality implies a considerable investment of time and skill. Most Chimú ceramics have dark grey to black surfaces, created in a smudging atmosphere during firing. Stirrup spout bottles are common among Chimú ceramic forms. Chimú examples are noted for the presence of a lug at the junction of the spout and stirrup. Here, there is a small monkey; others have a bird or a simple lug. This bottle depicts a feline lying atop a rectangular chamber.