Lot 6
  • 6

Fine Wari Wood Inlaid Wood Effigy Container ca. A.D. 600-900

15,000 - 20,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood
  • Height: 2 in ( 5.1 cm)
the small ritual container of a feline seated upright and proudly clutching a trophy-head with both paws, his mother-of-pearl claws pressed to the spondylus segments of the upright feathered headdress, the trophy-head with inlaid tearpaths, the feline's legs bent tightly at the side, his alert growling face with open snout with greenstone and spondylus shell fangs, flared nostrils, oval eyes with purple pupils against green stone eyes, and tearpaths, the perked ears flanking the spout, and his tail curled up the back similarly inlaid, the limbs with inlaid cuff bands, the spotted pelt of orange and purple spondylus, mollusc, white shell and mother-of-pearl; a rectangular hole on the bottom for insertion of a plug. 


New York private collection, acquired by the late 1960's or early 1970's probably from Alan Lapiner
Sotheby's, New York, May 19, 1992, lot 25, consigned by the above

Catalogue Note

The Wari empire dominated the coastal and Highlands areas in 6th-9th c., with a flourish of artisan workshops creating textiles, pottery and specialized objects designed with the socio-political themes of the era.  Despite the many arid regions in the empire, wood objects rarely survived. The small wood containers such as this example, were made for lime powder which was eaten in small quantities to enhance the chewed coca leaves, or may have held other substances such as cinnabar.

This small yet intense feline is a jewel-like personal accoutrement made for ritual purposes. It is richly inlaid with various colored shells and stone highlighting his face, pelt, tail and the trophy-head proudly held between his paws. He is a supernatural predator engaged in the trophy-head cult, an important sacrificial ritual connected to seasonal renewal ceremonies. 
For a small inlaid feline of similar style in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, see Bergh (2012: Fig. 236).