This is an EXCEEDINGLY RARE, highly detailed large silver applique of the master deity of the Pre-Columbian Inca, VIRACOCHA. Masterfully hammered out of a sheet of silver using multiple metalsmithing techniques, this highly detailed royal priestly object shows the classic representation of the most power Inca deity, Viracocha wearing a sun crown with feline embellishments, and topped by a human figure wearing a crown. The applique has been pierced in several places allowing it to have been likely sewn on to a garment or crown worn by a noble or priest. It is the only time we have seen or handled such a RARE object in precious metal, of this deity. It comes from the famous Dr. Allen Heflin collection and was found in the 1950's. Additional information about Dr. Heflin's collection will accompany this piece.
All hammered detail is complete and shows no modern damage, repair or restoration. Ancient encrustations are intact on some surfaces on the front and back sides. Every protrusion of the crown is intact with no bending or ancient damage. You could not ask for a more impressive preserved object of such rarity as this!
Since silver was not found in alluvial deposits like gold, it was often considered more precious and scarce as it always had to be hand-mined from underground, making it much less accessible than gold. Metal crafts in precious metals such as gold and silver were THE most prized handcraft (along with jade work) objects of Pre-Columbian cultures. A great talent and skill would have been needed to first hammer the silver into thin sheet and then utilize repoussé and chasing metal-smithing techniques to make the face and decorative designs throughout. This involves hammering from the back side in reverse thinking. Chasing involves hammering from the front side. The combination of these two techniques were used to make this luxurious ancient object. Silver hammered Pre-Columbian deity objects were IMMEASURABLY RARE in the ancient world, as they are today. This large applique of the most powerful Inca god represents not only great artist handcraft achievement, but its an object that would have been reserved only for royal or priestly members of Inca society.
Viracocha (also Wiraqocha, Huiracocha; Quechua Wiraqucha) is the great creator deity in the pre-Inca and Inca mythology in the Andes region of South America. For the Inca, the Viracocha cult was more important than the sun cult. Viracocha was the most important deity in the Inca pantheon and seen as the creator of all things, or the substance from which all things are created, and intimately associated with the sea. Viracocha was immediately followed by Inti, the Sun.
Viracocha created the universe, sun, moon, and stars, time (by commanding the sun to move over the sky), and civilization itself. Viracocha was worshipped as god of the sun and of storms. He was represented as wearing the sun for a crown, with thunderbolts in his hands, and tears descending from his eyes as rain. In accord with the Inca cosmogony, Viracocha may be assimilated to Saturn, the "old god", the maker of time or "deus faber" (god maker), corresponding to the visible planet with the longest revolution around the sun.
According to a myth recorded by Juan de Betanzos, Viracocha rose from Lake Titicaca (or sometimes the cave of Paqariq Tampu) during the time of darkness to bring forth light. He made the sun, moon, and the stars. He made mankind by breathing into stones, but his first creation were brainless giants that displeased him so, he destroyed them with a flood and made humans, beings who were better than the giants, from smaller stones. After creating them, they were scattered all over the world.
Viracocha eventually disappeared across the Pacific Ocean (by walking on the water), and never returned. He wandered the earth disguised as a beggar, teaching his new creations the basics of civilization, as well as working numerous miracles. Many, however, refused to follow his teachings, devolving into warfare and delinquency; Viracocha wept when he saw the plight of the creatures he had created. It was thought that Viracocha would re-appear in times of trouble. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote that Viracocha was described as "a man of medium height, white and dressed in a white robe like an alb secured round the waist and that he carried a staff and a book in his hands."
According to Incan mythology, Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of Viracocha. In the Kalasasaya temple at Tiwanaku, carved atop a monolith known as the Gate of the Sun, is a deity holding a lightning bolt and snuff. Many speculate that this is a representation of Viracocha because the figure is depicted wearing a sun crown.