The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sex, Death and Sacrifice in the Mochica Religion at the Musee du Quay Branly
Wrinkle Face in a fish boat, part of "Sexe Mort et Sacrifice" (Sex, Death and Sacrifice) exhibition are seen Monday, March 8, 2010 in Paris. On show at Paris' Quai Branly museum is an extraordinary and graphic testimonial to the Moche civilization of Peru and their sacrificial rites, which before death involved a lot of sexual intercourse. AP Photo/Francois Mori.

PARIS.- For the very first time in Europe, the exhibition "Sex, death and sacrifice in the Mochica religion" puts together 134 Mochica ceramics depicting sexual or sacrificial acts with a surprising level of realism. These potteries reveal to us the link that the Mochica people had established between religion, power, sexuality and death.

This amazing religious iconography, which is a meeting of the sexual act and the sacred, is unique in Precolumbian art and specific to Mochica mythology. It represents sacrificial acts but predominantly of a sexual nature between animals and/or anthropomorphous figures. The Mochica craftsmen have moulded these non reproductive rites into their pottery, making the stylized sexual attributes the central themes of an iconography for ritual purposes whose boldness is as pronounced as the strength of their beliefs.

Steve Bourget proposes keys for interpreting this sexual imagery which is not linked to the daily life of the Moche, but refers to a political and religious ideology that is characteristic of their society. Within this ideology dwells the concern for ensuring proper continuity of society and in a more general manner that of the whole universe through the reproduction of the governing authority.

Deciphering the Rites of an Unrecognized Civilization
This major Precolumbian civilization,, a contemporary to the Nazca culture of the southern coast, is ranked amongst the greatest indigenous cultures of the Andes, at the same level as the Inca empire that it preceded by more than five centuries. It flourished from the 1st century to the 7th century of our era in an arid zone of northern Peru. Imposing funeral sites (such as the one of "Lord of Sipan", exhumed in 1987), and the huacas (huge pyramid shaped ceremonial sites), have led to a deeper understanding of this civilization thanks to a number of exhumed testimonials of burials and the wall paintings which adorn funeral monuments.

The exhibition gives us the opportunity to discover this Precolumbian civilization through the prism of its unique mythology which, in the absence of writings, is handed over to us through its specific imagery standing testimonial to the amazing meeting of the sacred, the sexual act and death.

It is important to understand that the sexual images represented on Mochica ceramics are not illustrations of the day-to-day life of the Moche society. Therefore, their interpretation cannot be based on the ideas and values upheld by our own society: their message should be deciphered from a reconstruction of the specific context of the Moche world, which is represented in this exhibition.

By focusing more specifically on ceramic production, a particularly rich facet of Mochica craftsmanship that is well known for its abundance and its realism, the archeologist Steve Bourget unravels the outcome of the research works that he has conducted while studying the whole of Moche iconography in a systematic manner.

However, the interpretations put forward in the exposition are necessarily speculative in nature, given the incomplete nature of archeological sources pertaining to this civilization.

The exhibition is freely based on the book published by Steve Bourget, in 2006: Sex, Death and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture.

A Unique and Complex Ideology
The vestiges of Mochica culture refer back to a complex cosmology organized according to a dualistic principle, that is typical even today of the indigenous cultures of the Andes: the universe and the phenomena that make up the universe are split into two parts, and the elements of the world, arranged in pairs, are assigned to one or the other part.

The Mochica society, as it is represented in iconography, consists of four major classes of beings:

• the living beings (humans and domestic animals),
• the dead,
• animal spirits,
• the main divinities or ancestral spirits. on the book published by Steve Bourget, in 2006: Sex, Death and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture.

All these beings are caught in reproduction cycles involving their tipping over from one half to the other, within the framework of big group rituals wherein sacrifices, in particular those of imprisoned warriors, occupied an important place.

We are dealing with one of the most complex aspects of the Mochica religion here: the rites associated with the journey of their Lord – the omnipotent dignitary who ruled singlehandedly over his subjects as well as over nature – from the World of the living to the World of the dead. Rites which, in the absence of writings, are conjured up by the production of these brick red coloured ceramics. The vases are decorated with painted or sculpted sexual and sacrificial scenes; the representation of explicit acts, involving human beings, animals and even skeletons, accompanied the Lord and the Mochica elite in their journey to the World of the dead, thus guaranteeing their return to life and fertility.

An Unparalelled Know-How, A First-of-Its-Kind Reading
The Mochica have been famous for a long time for the technical virtuosity, the abundant nature and the amazing "realism" of their ceramic productions, and particularly for those portraying sexual acts between animals and between anthropomorphous figures. This sexual imagery, unique owing to its complexity in Precolumbian art, poses multiple interpretation related problems, all the more so since it is linked to funeral contexts, most probably pertaining to dignitaries.

Based upon a systematic study of the religious iconography, the curator Steve Bourget was able to highlight a focus of attention by the funeral ceramics on two major forms of sexuality:

• one involving non-procreative sexual acts (sodomy, masturbation, fellation…) between a living human being (generally a woman) and possibly a sacrificial victim, a dead being or a skeletal being.

• the other pertains to procreative copulation either between animals symbolizing important elements of fertility (amphibia, rodents…), or between an important divinity – mainly the divinity known under the name of "Wrinkle Face" – and a human woman.

The first category of images would seem to refer to a reversed sexuality and one that could not lead to procreation as is specific to the inhabitants of the infra world, while the second one, representing copulation between a divinity and a sacrificial victim, would seem to invoke conducive sexuality on the cosmological plane, as a proof of fertility of the world inhabited by the Mochicas.

There is thus nothing erotic about these astonishing representations, and their naturalism is just superficial, since they represent the essential part of super-natural entities or processes combining things that are normally far removed from one another: the living dead, animals with human attributes, gods who are at once destructive and regenerative.

It actually pertains to a religious imagery, for ritual purposes, which uses sexuality for symbolizing abstract cosmological operations: the journey from this world to the infra world, the continuous exchanges of nourishing and nurturing substances – blood, the seminal fluid, water… – between the living and divinities or ancestral spirits, regulated exchanges that guarantee proper functioning of the universe managing which is the duty of sovereign and religious dignitaries.

Musee du Quay Branly | Mochica Religion | Precolumbian Civilization |

Last Week News

March 11, 2010

State Historical Museum Opens "The Year 1812 in the Paintings by Vasily Vereshchagin"

Multifaceted Artist Beat Takeshi Kitano Exhbits at Fondation Cartier

MoMA Opens "The Modern Myth: Drawing Mythologies in Modern Times"

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Presents "ColorForms"

Table by Diego Giacometti Makes Top Price at Bonhams

New Works by Mel Bochner in Exhibition at Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Harriet Tubman Collection Unveiled by Smithsonian Museum

Jupiter Artland Announces Four New Sculpture Commissions

Art of the Islamic and Indian World at Christie's in April

Curators Claim "Lost" Emperor Portrait is Largest Mughal Painting Ever Seen

Bonhams to Sell ANC Charter that Recalls Century of Struggle in South Africa

The Ducks are Back! Duckomenta II-New Works and Finds

Works by Degas, Delacroix to Visit AGO in North American Exclusive

Musical Million is Made at Bonhams: Plague Survivor's 1692 Violin Sells for 54,000

Dozen Centuries-Old Shipwrecks Found in Baltic Sea

Museum of Contemporary Art Presents Ceal Floyer's First Solo Museum Exhibition

With Luis Camnitzer Exhibition, Daros Latinamerica Focuses on Conceptual Art

Marina Abramovic: Three Historic Films Presented by Creative Time

Jennifer Russell to Rejoin Metropolitan Museum as Associate Director for Exhibitions

National Postal Museum Announces Design and Architectural Firms for the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery

March 10, 2010

Centre Pompidou Shows Fifty Large-Format Paintings in Tribute to Lucian Freud

Annie Leibovitz Agrees Loan Deal with Colony Capital: Report

Christie's to Sell the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody

Sotheby's to Sell Single-Owner Collection of British Watercolours and Drawings

Smithsonian Accepts Michelle Obama's Inaugural Ball Gown

Groundbreaking Acquisition by DeCordova: Antony Gormley's "Reflection II"

Peru Lifts Some Machu Picchu Claims Against Yale University

Carnegie Museum of Art Announces Staff Promotions and Changes

Painting and Imperial Objects Highlight Sotheby's Fine Chinese Sale

UK Artist Nasser Azam Completes Major Antarctic Performance Painting Series

MUMOK Exhibition Explores Art and Television 1963-1987

Tim Van Laere Gallery Presents Paintings by Faris McReynolds

Winslow Homer Exhibition this Summer at the Portland Museum of Art

Eight Remarkable Canadians Win Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Rankin's Cheeky: An Exhibition of Erotica by Rankin at Annroy Gallery

National Portrait Gallery Presents First Ever Exhibition Devoted to Indian Portraits

Chen Man, China's Celebrated Avant-Garde Photographer, in Her First Hong Kong Show

SFMOMA Announces New Thursday Night Happenings

Aretha Franklin Honored at International Slavery Museum's Black Achievers Wall

Lisa Gralnick: The Gold Standard at Bellevue Arts Museum

March 9, 2010

Prado Museum Opens Exhibition Dedicated to the Armour and Paintings of the Spanish Court

'Secret' Painting by Giotto Uncovered in Florence Chapel

Matisse Museum Shows Paintings by Robert De Niro, Sr.

Ron Arad's Design Museum in Holon Opens to the Public

New Music Museum in Jamaica to Show Marley, Tosh

The Box Shows Robert Mallary's Work in Los Angeles for the First Time Since 1954

Sargent Masterpiece Travels to Spain for Meeting with Velazquez's "Las Meninas"

Israel Museum Commissions New Works by Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor

Thirteen's SundayArts Teams Up with New Arts Correspondent Melissa Chiu

FBI Recovered Antiquarian Library to Be Sold At Auction

Sotheby's Sale of the Peter Stuyvesant Collection Realises 13,590,475 Euro

Erol Akyavas's "The Siege" Fetched 1.274.000 Euro at Antik A.S. Auction House

Pablo Picasso and other Modern Masters Announced at the Gibbes

Van Abbemuseum Welcomes Visitors to Experience the Museum on Transformation Mode

Brooklyn Museum Gala with New Format Celebrates the Major Exhibition American High Style

Bonhams Oxford Motor Car Sale Makes Record 1 Million Pounds

Sugary Photographs with Tricks, Poses and Effects: A Festival on Photography

Sotheby's to Exhibit in Doha Treasures from Its Forthcoming "Arts of the Islamic World" Sale

Latin American Cultural Event Slated for Denver

The Max Mara Art Prize for Women Announces Shortlist

March 8, 2010

Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts Presents Painting by German Artist Max Klinger

Leo Villareal Public Art Installation Illuminates Downtown with Sky

Albert Einstein's Relativity Manuscript Goes on Display

State of Michigan to Save Minoru Yamasaki's Architectural Records

Dutch Designer Joris Laarman Unveils New Work at Friedman Benda

Walk-Into Sculptures by Collective Atelier Van Lieshout at MUMOK

Rare Toys Debut in Bertoia's Auction of Donald Kaufman Collection, Part III

Much-Anticipated Reopening of the Morris Museum of Art

Paris Fashion Shows Do Performance Art, Exotic Locales

New Exhibition Shows how British Public Adapted to a World of Food Shortages

Rijksmuseum Shows Some of Its Best Tulip Prints and Drawings

Kopeikin Gallery to Open Exhibition of Drawings by William Steiger

The Field Museum Presents Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age

Juilliard Music Technology Center Presents Festival of Electro-Acoustic and Multimedia Art

Photographs by Michael Corridore at Aperture Foundation

Air Sculptures, the Grid, Space, and Beyond-New Los Angeles Gallery Presents Daring New Work

Singapore Art Museum Opens First of Four Solo Exhibitions for 2010

More than 100 Works from the Thaw Collection Showcase Artistry of Cultures Across Millennia

Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill Opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Worcester Art Museum Rock & Rolls All Night Long

March 7, 2010

Edward Steichen Fashion Photo Exhibit Opens at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale

Turkish Chamber Given New Exhibition Space at Dresden Royal Palace

Ai Weiwei to Undertake Next Commission in The Unilever Series

Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society

Sophie Calle Announced as The 2010 Hasselblad Award Winner

Gary Snyder/Project Space Opens First Exhibition of the Work of John Griefen

Karl E. Willers, Ph.D. Appointed Director of Nassau County Museum of Art

American Naive Paintings on View at Taubman Museum of Art

Meadows Museum Presents "Royal Splendor in the Enlightenment"

Johanna Unzueta Presented Named Recipient of PULSE Prize New York 2010

Portraits and Still Lifes by Vera Mercer at Kommunale Galerie in Berlin

Dolby Chadwick Gallery Opens Kirsten Stolle's "Anatomy of a Future Forest"

Exhibition by Christian Jankowski at Friedrich Petzel Gallery

Evidence of Mormon Participation in Mexican War Found

Kemper Museum Acquires Two Magnolia Laurie Paintings from Causey Contemporary

March UBS 12 x 12 at Chicago's MCA Presents White/Light

News from the Near Future by Fiona Tan at Museum Kunst der Westkuste

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Presents a New Body of Work by Emile Clark, Its First Artist-in-Residence

The Weird and Wonderful Sydney Town Hall Collection Geso on Public Display

March 6, 2010

Exhibition at Pinacotheque Shows Avant-Garde Anguished Edvard Munch had Another Side

Rembrandt and Miró Prints Highlight Sotheby's March 2010 Prints Sale

Julián Zugazagoitia Named Director of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Andreas Gursky Inaugurates Gagosian's Newly Expanded Beverly Hills Gallery

Welsh Artist Bethan Huws Opens Solo Exhibition in Hannover

Zur Stockeregg Gallery Features Two Outstanding Swiss Photographers:

London International Fine Art Fair at Olympia Relaunches

Mrs. Obama to Donate Inaugural Gown to Smithsonian

Aboriginal Image Wins Top Australia Photo Portrait Prize

Art Institute of Chicago Appoints New Chief Operating Officer

Recent Still-Life and Figure Paintings by William Bailey at Betty Cuningham Gallery

Christie's to Offer 500 Years of Printmaking this March

Valencian Institute for Modern Art Opens Exhibition by Cai Xiao Song

David Zwirner Presents The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis

Parsons Launches Website that Provides Guidance for Artists and Designers on Copyright Issues

Kiki Smith and Christiane Baumgartner to Appear at Pennsylvania Acadamy of the Fine Arts

Exhibition of Andy Warhol's Late Works to Travel to the Brooklyn Museum

Sally Mann Exhibits in a Swiss Museum for the First Time

Creative Time & The Standard Announce The StandART Video Channel

Milan Museum Honors Chair Designer Magistretti

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Porsche Super Speedster offered for first time in 50 years at RM Sotheby's Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction

2.- Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens opens 'Storytelling: French Art from the Horvitz Collection'

3.- Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti stars Vincent Cassel as the famed French artist

4.- Stunning colored diamonds expected to dazzle at Heritage Auctions' Summer Fine Jewelry Auction

5.- US designer Kate Spade found dead at 55

6.- Vincent Van Gogh painting sells for over 7 million euros: Artcurial auction house

7.- Sir Stanley Spencer painting discovered hidden under a bed during a drugs raid

8.- Oxford's Bodleian Libraries unveil UK's first major Tolkien exhibition in decades

9.- Major exhibition at the Guggenheim explores decades of work by Alberto Giacometti

10.- World's largest freshwater pearl goes for 320,000 euros

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful