Andean Art

Introduction

Table Summary

Summary of Andean Art
Chavin essential style of Andean art founded (stone sculpture, goldwork, pottery)
Moche and Nazca pottery decoration, Nazca lines
Tiwanaku-Wari Tiwanaku (notably the stone gateway and pillar statues)
Chimu Chan Chan
Inca Machu Picchu, goldwork
all Andean cultures weaving

Dominant Cultures

Andean history can be divided into five phases (see History of Pre-colonial Meso/South America), each of which features one or two "dominant cultures". A dominant culture is the strongest and most influential culture of its age.

Dominant Cultures of Andean History
period dominant culture(s)
ancient
ca. 1000 BC-500 AD
Early Horizon Chavin culture
Early Intermediate Moche and Nazca cultures
medieval
ca. 500-1530
Middle Horizon Tiwanaku-Wari culture
Late Intermediate Chimu culture
Late Horizon Inca culture

Main Article

Chavin Art

The Chavin culture is the "mother culture" of Andean civilization. In other words, the culture of the Chavin people served as the foundation upon which subsequent Andean cultures developed. Though little survives of Chavin architecture, enough visual art has been recovered to show that the essential style and motifs of Andean art were established by the Chavin.

The main forms of extant Chavin art are stone sculpture (relief and in-the-round), goldwork, and pottery (painted and/or sculpted). These art forms continued to flourish under subsequent Andean cultures. A distinctive feature of Andean pottery is the stirrup spout, illustrated in several of the images below.

Early Horizon: Chavin culture
Chavin Sculpture
Chavin Sculpture
Chavin Relief Sculpture
Chavin Goldwork
Chavin Goldwork
Chavin Pottery
Chavin Pottery

Striking similarities may be observed between Andean and Mesoamerican art and architecture, suggesting that cultural influence flowed between these regions (and across the Americas in general) from early times.

Moche and Nazca Art

Andean pottery culminated with the splendid vessels of the Moche and Nazca peoples. While Moche pottery is typically realistically modelled and painted with a single colour, the Nazca preferred stylized modelling decorated in multiple colours (see Realism vs. Stylization).13

Along with pottery, the foremost artworks of this period are the Nazca Lines, produced by the Nazca culture. These enormous line drawings, comprised of grooves in the Nazca Desert (southwest Peru), number in the hundreds. Subjects include geometric forms, plants, birds, and animals.G391,H573

Early Intermediate: Moche and Nazca cultures
Moche Pottery
Moche Pottery
Nazca Pottery
Nazca Pottery
Nazca Lines (monkey)
Nazca Lines (bird)

Tiwanaku-Wari Art

The Tiwanaku and Wari were two distinct cultures, each of which ruled a large empire. Yet in terms of overall Andean history, these two peoples were culturally very similar, far more so than (for instance) the Moche and Nazca. One may therefore reasonably group them under the single term Tiwanaku-Wari culture.

The foremost collection of Tiwanaku-Wari art is the ruined city of Tiwanaku, capital of the Tiwanaku Empire, in present-day northern Bolivia. The largest works of art among these ruins are a great stone gateway and numerous pillar statues. (A "pillar statue" has a roughly cylindrical shape, such that it resembles a pillar.)

Middle Horizon: Tiwanaku and Wari civilization
Ruins of Tiwanaku
Stone Gateway at Tiwanaku
Pillar Statue at Tiwanaku
Pillar Statue at Tiwanaku
Sculpted Faces at Tiwanaku

Chimu Art

The foremost artistic legacy of the Chimu culture is its ruined capital, the city of Chan Chan. The clay brick walls of the city are coated in a variety of relief patterns.13

Late Intermediate: Chimu civilization
Model of Chan Chan
Reliefs at Chan Chan
Reliefs at Chan Chan
Reliefs at Chan Chan

Inca Art

The most famous architectural work of Andean civilization is Machu Picchu, the best-preserved settlement of the Inca culture. The buildings and retaining walls of Machu Picchu blend seamlessly with its natural environment. Though relatively small, Machu Picchu may have served as a royal complex, given the exceptional quality of its stonework and its unusually high altitude.H576,K212-13

The Inca also showed remarkable talent in the field of goldsmithing. While fine goldwork was produced by Andean cultures in general (as well as Mesoamerican cultures in general), the Inca are likely the most renowned goldsmiths of the pre-colonial Americas.

Late Horizon: Inca civilization
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Inca Goldwork
Inca Goldwork

Andean Weaving

The art of weaving flourished among all Andean cultures; indeed, Andean textiles are matched in fame only by those of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic world. Vibrantly-coloured geometric patterns are the norm; figures, if present, are rendered in a geometrically stylized fashion.

Andean Textile
Andean Textile
Andean Textile
Andean Textile
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