Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, 2
[Photo: Joaquín Rubio]
It’s been two months since I wrote about the then-new exhibition Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon at the Seattle Art Museum. With its close three weeks away, we returned on Thursday morning for a tour with SAM’s curator of Native American art, Barbara Brotherton. Before I say a few words about that, let me quote again from the exhibition website:
Discover the mysteries of Machu Picchu, treasures from royal tombs and archeological wonders from one of the cradles of civilization in Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon. More than 3,000 years of artistic history reveal a land of rich complexity and startling beauty.
This unusually wide-ranging exhibition covers archeology, ancient rituals, royal ceremonies, conquest and colonization, the formation of the republic and the emergence of a new national identity. Experience the unfolding of culture through the creative achievements of Peru, from gold funerary masks to modern folk art.
The Seattle Art Museum is proud to be the only U.S. venue presenting this spectacular exhibition of more than 300 works, including national treasures never before seen outside of Peru.
And let me quote also from my first post on the exhibition, recounting our experience on opening night:
We made an unfortunate error, relying on habit to pass from the opening room to a second one in a clockwise direction, not realizing that this time the natural route was counter-clockwise. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings were evidence something was amiss, but maybe objects were grouped by medium, not chronologically. Plus, the exhibition showpiece—the forehead ornament—was in a neighboring space. So maybe there wasn’t a strict chronological order.
Off we went, room to room, evidence mounting that we were walking backwards. I should note that we weren’t alone in this choice, the people moving in both directions adding to the confusion. Well, no matter. We saw many extraordinary objects. And we can go counter-clockwise on our next visit.
This time we did go counter-clockwise. Not that there was any chance of erring, since we were following Barbara’s lead.
Thanks both to viewing in chronological order and to Barbara’s comments, we were able to appreciate everything much better, and to realize just how fabulous a show this is. One passes through rooms of objects from the Mochica culture of 100-800, then the Lambayeque culture of about 750 to 1375 and Huari culture of 700-1200, leading to the Inca objects of the fifteenth century and then, suddenly, the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500s. As one leaves the Inca room to enter the first room of art and artifacts influenced by Spain and Catholicism, one experiences in some small way the dramatic shock of that time.
Barbara opened our eyes to the ways that the locals, through their art, adopted Catholicism yet grafted onto it their own native culture. One memorable example is a painting depicting Mary in a triangular gown from neck to feet that gives her the shape of a mountain, realizing her as both Jesus’s mother and traditional earth goddess.
There’s still time to see the show. And still time for a tour. I recommend both.