Final Research Paper
Art History 6H
3 June 2015
Art History 6H Research Paper: Inca-Style Kero
Upon first glance, the Inca-style Kero appears to be nothing more than elegant metalwork. It may not strike the eye as an object with complex utility and implications. But of course, a first glance does not constitute any form of analysis, no matter how superficial. In reality, the Kero (also spelled Quero or Qiru) is a vessel that ties art to ceremony, all the while retaining symbolism that ranges from the religious, to the sociopolitical, to the cosmological. Designed to serve as a drinking vessel for Andean feasts in which alcoholic beverages such as chicha (or other variants) were consumed from it, the Kero was widely regarded to be a necessary component of certain ritualistic ceremonies and celebrations.[footnoteRef:1] The Inca-style Kero’s integral role in ceremonial feasts and rituals contributed to the separation between socioeconomic classes as the Kero was most often utilized by political figures and other elite members of society. Along with its religious and cultural significance, the Kero was held sacred by the Inca and symbolized both prominence and potency. [1: Jennings, Justin. Drink, Power, and Society in the Andes. Gainesville: U of Florida, 2009. Print.]
With reference to its design, creation, composition, and artistic elements, there is much to be accounted for and scrutinized in the physical body of the Kero. This particular Kero (the object in question) assumes the form of a cup, or drinking vessel. The vessel’s most noteworthy feature is the seemingly human face that protrudes from the exterior of the cup, spanning the majority of the object’s height and half of its circumference. The face of the figure is a portion of the cup’s body, while the figure’s neck composes the cup’s base. The division of the body and the base is distinctly drawn at the jawline of the figure, where its face begins to protrude from the cup’s base. The vessel is approximately ten inches tall, and is neither notably thin nor wide. Since the object’s intended form is a cup, the only access to the vessel’s interior is through its open top. Beverages were likely poured into and consumed from the cup in this way. The object’s artistic medium is most likely silver ore, and the crafting process utilized in order to create the vessel is most likely smelting.[footnoteRef:2] Constructing a symmetrical and visually pleasing human face on the exterior of a hollow cylindrical drinking vessel via smelting or other blacksmithing techniques requires herculean effort and extreme precision. The object’s artist was evidently no stranger to the craft. The artist’s identity and motive for crafting the vessel are unknown as a result of the object being salvaged without any accompanying record (written or unwritten). Due to its age and exposure to oxygen across centuries, there is significant rust tarnishing the silver gleam of the vessel, adding orange and blue...