Vase (1977.017), 2020, Wooden crate, plaster, 58 x 59 x 52 cm

This piece represents a wooden crate containing a plaster cast of a shape carved into polystyrene foam. To minimize movement and vibration during transport, crates are often fitted with shock-absorbing foam inserts. Here, the carved-out form hugs the contours of the original artifact, evoking its clay material, and Desjardins’ sculpting marks can be seen on the surface of the plaster. While the piece highlights the materiality and skills involved in making the original artefact, it also raises ethical questions about the now-condemned practice of acquiring cultural property from foreign collections built on discoveries from archeological digs.

On October 19, 2020, at 10:17 a.m., Ariane Cardinal, Curator of Education, sent Chloé Desjardins a description of object 1977.017.

The object I chose reminds me of when I was studying to become an archaeologist and dreamed of discovering treasures. It is a glazed terracotta vase made by the pre-Columbian Nazca civilization of Peru.

It is composed of two inverted cones.

On the upper part, the artist painted characters wearing small fez-type hats topped with feathers. Note that the pictorial style does not respect the rules of perspective and dimensions. Wide black lines outline the different elements. The characters’ faces are either beige or gray, but their arms and legs are brown. Each is dressed in a white cape with brown spots, a beige loincloth, and a white fringed sweater, and holds a club in its left hand and a spear decorated with white feathers in its right. Small circular designs representing throwing weapons called bolas float around the figures.

These elements allow us to infer that the figures are warriors. Their positio- ning—that is, they are placed in profile, somewhat like Egyptian hieroglyphic figures—and their very elaborate clothing suggest a dating of about 500 CE.

Where the two inverted cones meet, there is a band of thick vertical black lines. These lines are painted from the junction of the cones down to the lower cone. On the lower part of the vase, there are a dozen small beige heads with black hair and large eyebrows. Material has been added to form their noses. Some have war paint under their eyes and on their noses. They all have a half-smile. The vase measures 11.5 cm in height and 12.2 cm in diameter. It is well preserved, although there are traces of general wear on the painted part, especially near the base and the bottom.

The Museum’s magnificent archaeological collection is somewhat dormant in the storage spaces. It would be great if Chloé’s project could revive one of these pieces!

Unknown artist, Vase, 5th century, Enameled terracotta, 11,5 x 12,2 x 12,2 cm

Collection of Musée d’art de Joliette. Anonymous gift. 1977.017