The Art that Made Peru Peru:
The fearsome forehead ornament with the feline head and octopus-shaped tentacles ending in catfish heads, now of view in the massive survey of Peruvian art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is silent in some ways and speaks volumes in others.
Crafted in gold, chrysocolla and shells, this sea god was made for a Mochica ruler some time between 100 and 800 A.D. Scholars believe it was buried at a site called La Mina in the Jequetepeque Valley, on Peru’s northern coast.
But they don’t know for sure. In 1988 La Mina was looted, and by the time archeologists learned the ornament existed, it had been smuggled to Spain. After being recovered by Scotland Yard in London, it was repatriated to Peru in 2006.
Grimacing from the catalogue’s cover, the golden god sends a fierce message about Peru’s ongoing commitment to reclaim its archeological heritage.
But it’s also there to make a larger statement about a national cultural identity.