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Peru: Larco Museum

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Larco Museum > Peru > Americas

[Visited: September 2012]

Days can be overcast and chilly in Lima; and on our last visit, it was the season for grey skies making the city look duller than it actually is. We decided to visit some of the museums in the Peruvian metropole, and the Museo Arqueol�gico Rafael Larco Herrera, or Larco Museum, took a microbus in the right direction, and got off when the driver indicated it was time to take another microbus. Instead, we decided to walk through one of those many quarters of Lima that seldom see any visitors; on the way, we found several unexpected sights like a big church and the ruins of a pre-Inca pyramid still being uncovered and behind a fence, right in the middle of blocks of low-rise houses, but also small schools, pretty houses, and shops where locals were buying everyday stuff. With all the diversions on our walk, we reached the museum before we knew it. Entering the museum grounds was like entering an oasis of tranquillity in the surrounding big city. After we climbed the ramp to the first floor of the attractive colonial building, we found ourselves looking over a small garden with trees and flowers.

Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Ornaments belonging to a Chim� dignitary

We decided to first walk down, to have a look at the garden and the pretty museum building. Sculpted lionheads were sticking out of a wall on which green plants were hanging down; with the big pots lying on the floor, the garden had a romantic feel. We then found out that we had reached the entrance of the erotic gallery; for some reason, we had assumed to find it in the main building. We decided we might as well start at this curious collection of ancient, pre-Colombian, ceramics. Right from the start, we were confronted with earthen phalluses in erect position, women showing their vulva, some with incredible openings, couples having intercourse with each other in different positions. Some of the items had god-like creatures, dead people masturbating, or animals having sex. A curious collection, with clear explanations provided, from which you can understand that it was never the intention to shock, or to make arousing objects. Instead, these remarkably well-preserved items, found in underground tombs in the arid climate of Peru, show that for many pre-Colombian cultures, pro-creation was a vital part of life, fertility was seen as a necessary condition for survival, and the male and female sexual organs seen as symbols of duality.

Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Complete set of Chim� funerary offering

It was time to walk up to the main building. The erotic gallery was the part we had been most interested in; we had the impression that the main building contained more traditional Peruvian ceramics, and that we would be done soon. We could not be more wrong. The exhibition in the main building proved to be not only highly interesting, but also very well organized and explained. Instead of whizzing through, we found ourselves taking time to have a closer look at gorgeous items like golden pectorals, finely decorated textiles, ceramics, statues, and ornaments for the living and the death. The darkness of the museum and the proper lighting made the objects stand out, looking even more beautiful. Already overwhelmed by the great look of the items, our mouths dropped when we reached the last rooms where the gold and jewelry section was. The very last piece, an almost complete pectoral, on display on a model head with golden crown and jewelry, was simply breathtakingly beautiful. Once back in the small courtyard of the building, we felt totally satisfied, dropped by the storage where tens of thousands of items are kept on display in cupboards, before we had to leave. A worthwhile way of spending a few hours on a cloudy day in Lima!

Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Human represented in a red-and-white painted piece of pottery
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Fine example of ceramics representing a human figure
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Interior view of the Larco Museum with statue of ruler with feline in the foreground
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Nazca ceramics with remarkably bright colours
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): A couple performing oral sex in the erotic gallery of the Larco Museum
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Feather hat on a gold mask
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Ceramics representing a dead man with an erect penis in the erotic gallery
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Fine ceramics of a crested animal produced in the Mochica period
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Close-up of fine piece of clothing in the main exhibition
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Bowl with two painted birds in the main exhibition
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Pectoral of high dignitary: a close-up
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Deity performing sex with four assistants taking care of the cover
Picture of Larco Museum (Peru): Couple performing sex represented in ceramics of the Mochica period

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