In the cultures of ancient Peru, utilitarian vessels had symbolic origins and ritual functions. They contained liquids that were part of their offerings to the divinities, and so every detail of their form carried an ideological meaning. The so-called huacos, used in their ceremonies and to accompany the deceased to the world beyond, traveled between the outer and the inner worlds through the real and symbolic flow of water. Generally, ceramics, their forms, colors and uses reflected the vision of the cosmos of the culture that created them.
From its origins to the Incas, Andean societies structured the universe into three pachas or levels. Hanan Pacha was the world above; the Uku Pacha, its complementary counterpart, was located below, while the Kay Pacha was the intermediate level of the here and now. The representations of this triad created an aesthetic that uniquely identifies the Andean worldview.
Ducks connect the worlds above and below through the lagoons where they live, thus relating the water that flows from the depths with the upper world. This naturalistic and highly realistic representation is also evidence of masterful Mochica ceramics. The figure’s slight sideward tilt strikes a perfect balance of the elements in this perfect piece.
Mochica art captured recurring symbols of the Andean worldview with particular detail and deftness. In this pitcher, birds and stripes interlace–as a symbol of the encounter and the connection between worlds: the celestial and the marine–while the edge of the neck combines steps and spirals, symbols of the interaction between worlds and the cyclical character of life.