Description: A standing pottery female figure with arms upraised wearing a conical cap, an eye mask, an armless shirt, and naked below the waist. The figure has a white slip with the decoration in dark brown. Overall patchy surface wear but a good example of the type.
Size: 254 mm/10 ins. high
Culture: Peru, Chancay
Date: c. 1300 A.D.
Provenance: Ex Desmond Morris (born 1928) Collection, Oxford.
Background: Desmond Morris is a renown author (best known for his best seller ‘The Naked Ape’ published in 1967), zoologist, surrealist painter and passionate collector, noted for his collection of ancient Cypriote pottery, published as a sumptuous volume by Phaidon in 1985 (‘The Art of Ancient Cyprus’) which although out-of-print remains the best reference available for ancient Cypriote pottery. He first started collecting postage stamps as a small boy and then moved on to fossils and minerals, then seashells, then tribal art, then modern art, then ancient Cypriote art, amassing some 1100 fine Cypriote objects. He then moved on to collect Russian icons, and amassed a fine collection of PreColumbian art, then he moved on to Chinese art and finally assembled a collection of Algerian Berber pottery. He bought almost all his pieces at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London, when there was far more on the market than there is now, although he also bought some objects from dealers in London, New York and Europe. Following the death of his wife, Desmond sold much of his remaining collections (his famed Cypriote art collection had been sold much earlier to finance other collecting interests) and moved to a smaller house in Ireland to live near his family. We were fortunate to acquire a number of his PreColumbian pieces. Desmond always regarded it important to have one’s collection on display around you and not shut away in cupboards. His advice - only buy items that catch your eye and are somehow special. Perfect advice from a true connoisseur.
Notes: Terracotta guardian figures (sometimes known as Cuchimilco figures) were important in Chancay Culture, which developed in central Peru during the later stages of the Inca empire. It is thought that they may have acted as guardians to Chancay tombs, or were placed with burials to provide companionship in the afterlife. Such figures commonly have their arms upraised, as this one, interpreted as a welcoming posture.
A rare opportunity to acquire an object from one of Britains’ most distinguished private collectors.