CHIMU - PERU . 1100 - 1550 A.D.
Height : 67 cm
Width : 25 cm
Depth : 15 cm
Ancient European collection since 1967.
Anthropomorphic sculpture, also known as a totem, representing a standing figure wearing a loincloth, resting on a wide rectangular base.
The feet are large and the toes are carved. The massive, straight legs are apart. They are decorated with engraved stylized animals: on the external sides of each of them, two fishes, directed upwards, are placed one above the other, whereas the right leg presents the same kind of fish, but with its head turned back to the right, and the left leg presents a long-beaked bird heading towards the ground. The knees are lightly in relief and, on the back, their fold is marked. The waist is girded by a rectangular loincloth, decorated along its lower edge by a frieze with geometric motifs and embellished with fringes. The torso is massive, decorated on its entire surface with seven engraved double circles. The muscular arms are stretched out along the body; the fingers and toes are delicately sculpted. As for the legs, the arms are decorated with numerous engraved designs: on the top of the left arm, we find a stylized fish again, identical to that of the right leg; along the same arm’s side, to the wrist, are a set of four double circles, similar to the ones that adorn the chest; on the back of the very same arm are also engraved several geometric lines; on the right side then, the wrist only is decorated with an engraved frieze of geometric motifs. The back of the figure is decorated with beautiful engraved animals as well: two ranges of three stylized fishes, as the ones carved on the sides of the legs, occupy the entire space.
The large head directly rests on the shoulders. The facial features are pure and geometric. The chin is protruding. A hollow, almost oval-shaped area highlights the open rectangular mouth; this unique structure gives the figure a striking expression tinged with astonishment. The aquiline nose is long and its wings are engraved. The almond-shaped eyes are delicately sculpted and surmounted by lightly arched eyebrows. The ears are salient; their auricle is carved with care. The forehead is wide and the back of the head is a little concave.
This totem is simply exceptional. Impressive with its size, it is very remarkable due to its quality of execution and especially the multiplicity of the engraved motifs, stunning with their expression and the strength of their presence. It really is a true masterpiece of the Chimu statuary, the tallest known to date, and probably the most beautiful as well.
The Chimu culture develops between 850 and 1500 A.D. around the Moche valley, on the north coast of Peru. It is considered as one of the most important and complex societies of the Central Andes and represents the culmination of an autonomous cultural development’s process. The wooden totems with their geometric style are characteristic of the Chimu statuary. They are renowned for their frozen attitude and their angular features, giving them a remarkable impression of strength and serenity.