Thursday, December 12, 2013

Peru Exhibit at SAM

12/12/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibit Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and Moon is an impressive collection of ancient Peruvian artifacts as well as paintings and sculptures from the post-colonial era. However, today was not a good day to see it, as we had to compete with about a million elementary school students on a field trip.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a good day to try to sketch the exhibit, either. But in the afternoon when most of the students had left, I found a dark corner where I could stand out of the way to sketch this silver and gold Eucharistic urn depicting a pelican (which is believed to allow its young to feed on blood from its own body – thus, the Eucharistic symbolism). The large bird had some amazing details like gemstones in its head and a brightly shimmering silver finish that I couldn’t capture, but they were stunning to see. According to the placard, it also has a moveable tongue.

This was actually my second attempt at a sketch. The first was a miserable failure in pencil that I gave up on quickly because the pencil seemed so slow and pale compared to my usual pen and ink. (Technically, I think I’m supposed to use only pencil at the museum, but a guard came by to see what I was doing three times, and he didn’t scold me for using a pen, so I decided that was permission to keep using the pen. He was certainly quick to scold others who were trying to take photos.)


  1. I love all the details you included in the urn. Interesting information about it too. Sorry there were so many school kids, but having been a teacher who took kids on museum trips, we tend to travel in packs. lol

  2. Good sketch! I was raised Catholic and I've never heard the term Eucharistic urn. I wonder whether it is a reliquary? So I did a search. I found wonderful photos of the piece and they were all so labeled but none of the articles explained the meaning of the term. I even found it on SAM's website but it still doesn't explain it. I find it quite puzzling and more so because I can't find more of an explanation on the web!

    In European Heraldry, this is called "the Pelican in its Piety". I've also never heard of that imagery being called "Eucharistic" but it does make sense.

    Also of interest, your sketch comes up as the third non-ad link when searching the term, "Eucharistic urn"!


    1. Kate, I had no idea what "Eucharistic urn" meant either, and it was only the audio guide I listened to at the exhibition that explained the full symbolic reference. Third non-ad link! Score for my blog! :-)

  3. Our main museum isn't as fertile a ground for sketching this year but one virtue is that part of the reason is that a significant portion of it is tied up with a 'history of video games' exhibition. All the kids end up in there :-) But you've got better stuff to sketch.

    Cheers --- Larry


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