THE FEMALE BODY AND THE MALE BODY IN THE POTTERY OF ANCIENT PERU
The way in which we conceive our own bodily form is strongly influenced by our particular cultural and moral framework. Certain dogmas may tell us that the human body should be covered, or even that the “flesh” of the body stands in opposition to the spirit, to the divine. By presenting an art form which does not shy away from the naked body, our aim is to rid ourselves of certain concepts deeply-rooted in our own society’s thought, in order to better understand a very different vision of the human body, expressed in the art of ancient Peru.
• Around 4000 years ago, clay was adopted as the material that enabled ancient Peruvians to depict their world. The human body was expressed in the form of vessels or bowls which were more than mere objects: they were hollow sculptures in which air, water and other fluids flowed, circulated, entered and exited, symbolically activating and animating the clay medium.
• In the art of ancient Peru, we find sculptural clay vessels representing nude female and male bodies in suggestive poses, with the sexual organs explicitly displayed, or depicted as disproportionately large. Also found are male and female sexual organs modeled in great detail in the form of different vessels and indicating careful study of human anatomy.
• The pottery vessels we see in these rooms were used in agricultural ceremonies, in the preparation of meals and drinks for festivities, in funerary rites, and in sacrifice rituals. Their ultimate fate was to be buried, together with other vessels and diverse offerings. These objects served as messages to the living and to those who, in the afterlife, dwelled in the underworld.
• People interacted with these objects; they held them in their hands and may even have drunk from them during animated festivities and ceremonies. These acts almost certainly stimulated a range of erotic responses, provoking excitement and desire, and generating collective situations in which play and humor would have been present.