Friday, 3 May 2013

Peruvian Exhibition… a Golden History!

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
                                                                      by Nancy Snipper

Titled Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and Moon, this inspiring exhibition comprises 370 works of art: gold and silver ornaments, sculptures, textiles, pottery, paintings, litho and photos and more.  The astonishing collection of pre-Columbian treasures and masterpieces from the colonial era to Indigenism includes 100 pieces that have never traveled beyond Peru, and so it is highly important that we all get to view the stunning array of culture embodied in bold and exquisitely delicate works of intricate art. Rituals and non-secular objects come to life in12 different galleries. Amazing works from the Sipán culture in Mochica (100-800 AD), the Sicán in Lambayeque (750-1375) and the Chan Chan from Chimu (900-1476) prove to be stand-outs. The Spaniards led by Pissarro in 1545 brought Peru’s indigenous religion to its knees, and replaced it with a Catholic culture and the art that represents it is grandiose and on display as well. 
A wonderful projection of Machu Picchu introduces us to a country which has reclaimed it golden periods of a highly organized culture that embraces a spiritual identity based on dualism and the after-life.  
Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911 and more is said about its findings in the first section of the exhibition. The second focuses on the myths and ritual in the pre-Columbian era. Many objects in the galleries devoted to this topic revolve around human sacrifice. The knives used to sever the head are like double axes and big. Evidently, a severed head meant the returns of ancestors and the strengthening of the community which also had its own cult. It reached its apex with the Chimu culture of 900-176.  The provenance of many of the artefacts in the entire exhibit is the northern coast of Peru, with the Vice-Royal settlement happening more inland. 
The Inca culture which started in the mid-13th century and expanded it empire well into the 16th century created refined works of highly intricate art. Silver seemed to be used for feminine objects as this metal represented the moon goddess and her tears. Gold was used for masculine anecdotal art, and indeed the religious elite certainly reigned in Peru as did the appointed from royal blood line, The litter in the display is a staggering example of fine detailed work that marks Peru’s art from the beginnings to its modern day life. 
They say seeing is believing, and so below you will see photos from the exhibition whose crowning jewel is  the Mochica from La Mina. Measuring 28.5 x 4.5 cm, it was discovered during an illegal excavation of a tomb at La Mina in the Jequetepeque Valley which has been pillaged for one year starting in 1988. Called the Peruvian Mona Lisa, it   is a terrifying sea god. Intercepted in a London Gallery by Scotland Yard in 2004, this mesmerizing masterpiece was sent back to Peru in 2006. It is
 now on display in Lima, but you can see it in this exhibition in Montreal.  
Luis Alberto Peirano Falconi, Peruvian Minister of Culture, said “This ornament which has been removed from this place of permanent display in Lima for this exhibition represents at once a new appreciation of the country’s past, the fight against the illegal trafficking of cultural property and our Peruvian identity.”  
With its millennia-old culture, Peru is now recognized as one of the six cradles of civilisation. This exhibition transports you to this rich land of mystery, magnificence and magic. 
Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and Moon runs until June 16th, 2013 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The website is


Major works in the exhibition

Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon
identity and conquest in the ancient, colonial and modern eras

       Mochica, north coast, possibly La Mina 
Forehead Ornament with Feline Head and Octopus Tentacles Ending in Catfish Heads 
100-800 A.D. Gold, chrysocolla, shells,  
28.5 x 41.4 x 4.5 cm    
Lima, Museo de la Nacion.          
Photo Daniel Giannoni


Mochica, North Coast, Earspool depicting a warrior (100- 800 A.D.)      
Gold, turquoise, wood, 9.2 x 9.2 cm Museo Tum bas Reales de Sipan, Lambayeque  
Photo: Joaqu fn Rubio   

Mochica, north coast, Pur Pur   
Bottle depicting a human figure below a bicephalous snake 100-800 A.D   
Painted ceramic 38 x 30.7 x 12 cm Museo Larco, Lima  
Photo© 2011 Joaquin Rubio  

Mochica, north coast, Sipan  
Figurine depicting a supernatural half-human, half-bird being 100-800 A.D.   
Copper 11.5 x 7.2 x 6.5 cm 
Museo de Sitio de Huaca Rajada Slpan S/T14-Cu- 77  
Photo © 2011 Joaquin Rubio     
Mochica, north coast, Sipan Ornament in the shape of a human head 100-800 A.D.
Gold, silver, lap!s lazuli 15.5 x 15.2 cm 
Museo Tum bas Reales de Sipan, Lambayeque MNTRS-37-INC-02  
Photo © 2011 Joaquin Rubio     
Lambayeque, north coast Tumi (ceremonial knife) 750-1375 A.D.   
Gold, silver, turquoise 36.2 cm 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift and Bequest of Alica K. Bache 
 © Image The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY  

Chimu, North Coast 
Set of Head and Body Ornaments  
Late Intermediate Period (1000-1476 A.D.) Gold, silver and copper alloy, 
 46.6 x 21.9 cm Museo Larco, Lima   
Photo: Joaquin Rubio  
Lambayeque, North Coast Funerary mask 7S0-137S A.D.  
Gold, silver, amber, emerald 7 x 31 x S9 cm  
Museos "Oro del Peru" - "Armas del Mundo," Fundaci6n Miguel Mujica Gallo, Lima  

Lambayeque, North Coast, Back of Litter
(750 - 1375 A.D.)
Wood, silver, cinnabar, sulphurous copper and ammonia, shells, turquoise, feathers, 58 x 114 x 5 cm
Museo Oro del Peru, Lima
Photo: Joaquin Rubio

Lambayeque, north coast  
Drinking cup with rattle base and circular incrustations 750-1375 A.D. 
Gold, turquoise 13x10 cm   
Museos "Oro del Peru" - "Armas del Mundo", Fundaci6n Miguel Mujica Gallo, Lima M-00098   
Photo © 2011 Joaquin Rubio   
Lambayeque, north coast    
Gloves decorated with standing figures and geometric motifs 750-1375 A.D.    
Gold, turquoise,  15 x 55 cm; 12.8 x 53.5 cm
Museos "Oro del Peru" - "Armas del Mundo", Fundaci6n Miguel Mujica Gallo, Lima  
 Lambayeque, north coast  
Drinking cup decorated with standing figures 750-1375 A.D.   
Gold, turquoise,  h.. 20 cm; d. 17 cm  
Museos "Oro del Peru" - "Armas del Mundo", 
Fundaci6n Miguel Mujica Gallo, Lima  
Photo Patricia Arana
Huari, south coast, possibly Rio Grande Valley Feathered hanging 700-1200 A.D.  
Cotton, feathers 65.8 x 216 cm  
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 1953. A.D  
Photo MMFA

Anonymous, Cuzco School Archangel Michael Triumphant 17th century   
Polychromed mahogany, gold, and silver leaves 198.1x115.8 x 83.8 cm  
New Orleans Museum of Art: Museum  
purchase and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Q. Davis and the Stern Fund   
Anonymous, Cuzco School, Nativity Chest, 18th c.   
Painted wood, polychrome plaster and maguey (agave), metal, 46.7 x lOS x 47.8 cm   
Museo Pedro de Osma, Lima
Photo: Joaquin Rubio    
Possibly Lima Anonymous, Eucharistic Urn in the shape of a Pelican (c.1750-1760) 
 Partially gilded silver, gemstones, 83 x 91 cm   
Monasterio Nuestra Senora del Prado, Lima     
Anonymous, Cuzco School, Young Virgin Spinning, 2nd third of the 18th c.   
Oil on canvas with gold leaf applications 112.7 x 80.6 cm. 
Museo Pedro de Osma, Lima  
Photo Joaquin Rubio 

Enrique Camino Brent (Lima 1909 - Lima 1960)  
La escalera roja, Cuzco [The Red Stairway, Cuzco] 1954 
Oil on canvas 59 x 59 cm   
Pinacoteca Municipal "Ignacio Merino" de la Municipalidad Metropolitana de Lima 
Photo : Joaquín Rubio    
Martin Chambi, Tristeza andina, La Raya (Andean sadness, La Raya),  
1933, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 15 cm.
Courtesy of Archivo Fotografico Martin Chambi, Cuzco 

Francisco Lasso (1823 - 1869)  
 Inhabitant of the Peruvian Highlands, 1855 
Oil on canvas 138 X 138 cm 
 Pinacoteca Municipal "Ignacio Merino" de la Municipalidad Metropolitana de Lima 
  Photo: Daniel Giannoni    
Leonor Vinatea Cantuarias, Postoras, 1944
Oil on canvas, 197 x 174 cm.
Museo de la Nacion, Lima.
Photo: Joaquin Rubio