CHAVIN - Region of Kuntur Huasi - Peru

1000 - 700 B.C.

Height : 36 cm - Width : 15 cm - Depth : 14.5 cm

Grey basalt with a brown-beige patina.



This remarkable sculpture is a rare icon of the Chavin art, a civilization that flourished in Peru in the first millennium BC, and radiated throughout the Andean area to the point of being considered today as the mother civilization of the pre-Inca cultures. It would have taken origin in the heart of the mysterious ceremonial sanctuary Chavín de Huántar, situated at 3000 meters of altitude in the north of the Cordillera Blanca.

The entity represented is a major deity known as the "Staff God", mixing human attributes and zoomorphic features, particularly felines. The modernism of this statue is such that it is difficult to imagine that it was born more than 3000 years ago.

It is a very valuable piece from a symbolic point of view, but also because it was made in the round. Sculptures of this type from the Chavin period are very rare, as the artists preferred bas-relief and engravings on steles or directly on monuments, with a predilection for simplified and repeated motifs. A taste that is found here in the way the image of the divinity is worked.

Throned on a cylindrical base, the god is shown seated. He was probably installed in a sacred enclosure to be venerated. His body is schematized and the limbs interlock and respond to each other in a geometric and symmetrical composition, perfectly designed. The technique used is that of the "modular bands" which consists of treating the elements of a representation in the form of bands of close or equal width.

The head is compact and trapezoidal. The top of the skull and the lower jaw are flat. It presents feline features that refer to the great jaguar, revered for its power and feared for its ferocity and abundantly reproduced in all the artistic production of Chavin, whether lithic, ceramic, metallic or textile.

The mouth is open, judging by the teeth pattern in the center, and the upper lip is turned up. To the left and right, four sharp fangs emerge, two pointing up and two pointing down. A rectangular pattern of two joined bands is carved diagonally across the cheeks, probably representing the drooping corners of the jaguar's mouth and the black bands that can be seen at the lips.

The "nose" is flattened. Its wings in relief and its nostrils slightly dug with a circular drill evoke the breath of the animal. The eyes are rectangular as well as the pupils. They are surrounded by Greek spirals representing stylized snakes, forming the superciliary arches. In the middle of the short forehead, there are three half-moons. The ears are rectangular and their pavilion is stylized.The hair is engraved on both sides of a central stripe. Some strands are longer than the others and go down to the neck. They resemble the bodies of reptiles, especially since at the end of these locks are stylized snake heads. This iconography can be seen in other representations of supernatural beings in the Chavin style, especially those related to the Staff God. 

The head is not the only anatomical element imbued with jaguar characteristics. On closer inspection, the body posture is reminiscent of a feline sitting on its hindquarters, with its hind legs bent and its back muscles protruding.

The front limbs are flexed and raised. They rest on the back legs positioned at right angles. The "feet" rest on the base of the sculpture. Their treatment is reminiscent of the pads that protect the claws of the jaguar. The "hands" are not clearly sculpted. Six horizontal and parallel grooves are sufficient to identify the "fingers" or claws. His "hands" each hold a scepter on which two vertical engravings can be seen. These objects could represent stylized snakes, one of the attributes of the Staff God, to be put in symbolic relation with the lightning announcing rain.