PLATE DECORATED WITH SNAKES

INCA - Peru

1200 - 1500 A.D.

  • Height : 9 cm
  • Diameter : 29 cm
  • Length with the handles : 40 cm

Grey-green monzonite, phaneritic magmatic rock.

Plate with two handles decorated with several snakes in relief on the sides and the edges.

A total of fourteen snakes are depicted on this plate. On each handle, of which the shape reminds a snake’s head, two snakes seem to crawl toward each other. The sides of the plate are adorned with eight snakes, divided into two equal groups. Each group is made of two snakes crawling toward the top of the plate, encircled on both sides by two other snakes that are rolled around themselves. The head of each of the eight snakes rests on the upper edge of the plate. Finally, the last two snakes are lying on the rim of the plate, at the level of the handles, separating the two groups of four snakes on the sides of the plate. Each of the fourteen snakes has lightly engraved round eyes and nostrils. They are long and seem to be in movement. Undulating or rolled around themselves, they give the impression to be alive and to move all around the plate.

This plate, also known as a ceremonial bowl, is exceptional due to the beauty of the stone and the delicacy of the designs. By using wavy reliefs, the artist managed to create a sensual and dynamic effect. The repetition of the snake’s design, sacred animal all over the pre-Columbian world, adds an interesting iconographic dimension. A similar plate is displayed at the Museo de la Universidad San Antonio Abad del Cusco, in Peru, and is published in the catalog of the exhibition “Peru: The art from Chavin to the Incas” that took place in Paris from April 5th to July 2nd, 2006.

The Inca civilization is the most recent of the Andean cultures. It rises in the beginning of the 13th century in the Basin of Cuzco in Peru and then develops along the Pacific Coast and the Andean Range to extend, at its peak, from Columbia to Argentina and Chile, over Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The Incas particularly distinguished themselves by their remarkable state organization.