From the Vault: Made during the apogee of the Moche people of the north coast of Peru, this painted ceramic exemplifies the portrait jar, so-called because of the naturalistic, three-dimensional rendering of individual facial features. This portrait jar is relatively unusual within the genre, because it depicts a blind man wearing a simple cloth headdress and because it lacks the stirrup-spout handle of most Moche portrait jars.
The Oberlin portrait jar belongs to a small group of ceramic depictions of individuals who are blind in one or both eyes and who appear to have enjoyed some importance in Moche society. Moche portrait jars almost certainly represent individuals of high status, many of whom are thought to have been key officials, if not rulers. Even those who appear to be blind seem otherwise healthy; and when they are depicted on full-figure vessels, they are never bound, deprived of their clothing, or otherwise marked with traits identifying them as enemy prisoners. It has been suggested that blind individuals and other physically deformed people were believed to have certain supernatural powers, and thus enjoyed special privileges and duties in Moche society.
Read more on this work at the AMAM Collections page.
Peruvian (North Coast, Moche culture)
Portrait Jar Depicting a Blind Man, 400 – 500 AD
Tan pottery with brown, white, and black paint
Mrs. F. F. Prentiss Fund, AMAM 1973.33
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