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Standing Figure, ca. 1000-1400

Culture: Chancay, Peru (Central Coast)

Medium: Painted terra-cotta

25 1/4 x 13 x 6 3/4 in. (64.1 x 33 x 17.1 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Rushton E. Patterson, Jr.

Object Number: 95.3

Not on view

Dr. Rushton E. Patterson, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, 1995

Chancay was the most important city of the ancient Cuismancu Empire. A pre-Columbian people of the central coastal region of Peru, the Cuismancu were conquered by the Incas in the mid-1400s. Their use of standardized pottery molds made possible the production of vast quantities of ceramic objects. Standing Figure is a typical example of the cuchimilco form. Its raised arms with open, front-facing palms, signify the use of these figurines as devotional objects honoring Cuismancu gods in funerary rituals. Found exclusively at gravesites, these votive effigies are primarily female.


Her anatomy consists of the hand-drawn details of a navel, breasts, and a vagina, and simple marks in the clay to delineate the toes of each foot. Nostrils and ears are indicated with individual holes punctured into the clay. The heels have been intentionally extended to enable the object to stand upright in an earthen crypt. Decorative geometric patterns wrap around the headband of the squared, black headdress and beneath the chin line. Black pigment also accentuates the eyes, nose, and mouth in dramatic fashion. Paint dripping down the left arm and onto the left leg emphasizes the handmade quality of the object, its imperfection making evident the trace of the original creator centuries ago.