Primary Source

Moche Portrait Vessels

A portrait vessel with a stirrup spout depicting a man with paralytic features on his face.
The well-known portrait vessel called Huaco Retrato Mochica, which depicts a man's head wearing a turban with red detailing and a two headed bird on either side.
A portait vessel showing the head of a man wearing a turban/hat with geometric detailing and has a stirrup spout.


Moche portrait vessels are ceramic vessels that often featured only heads, but some also have full human bodies as well, and most are representations of adult men. The Moche existed in Peru between the period of 100 to 700 AD and are known for their ceramics, textiles, and metalworking practices, and these portrait vessels demonstrate the ceramic skill of the culture. Though much of the vessels are depicting the human figure, the realistic-looking faces are one of the few accurate portrayals found in Precolumbian Americas. The vessels do not portray the men represented in an idealistic form but instead include abnormalities, including one that shows a man with paralysis and others with missing eyes. One example of a well-known portrait vessel is Huaco Retrato Mochica, which is a stirrup spout vessel, where the handles help form the spout, Huaca Retrato Mochica features the head of a man wearing a turban and headdress with feathers on the side. This figure likely represented a ruler. 


How to Cite This Source

"Moche Portrait Vessels ," in World History Commons, [accessed July 23, 2024]