Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Degree Program

Art (Creative) and Art History with a concentration in Critical and Curatorial Studies, MA

Committee Chair

Reitz, Chris

Committee Member

Sichel, Jennifer

Committee Member

Swinehart, Karl

Author's Keywords

pre-Columbian; Peru; cermaics; Peruvian ceramics; Speed Art Museum


This thesis is an investigation into the Peruvian pre-Columbian collection at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. The Speed Art Museum acquired this collection in 1934 and it has largely remained unresearched for nearly a century after acquisition into the museum’s collection. This investigation is not an attempt to make broad characterizations of pre-Columbian ceramics. Nor is its goal to fill in all the gaps of the collection’s history. Instead, this thesis follows the evidence the collection presents: the physical attributes of the ceramics, the donor’s history, U.S. history, and information from the collection file provided by the Speed Art Museum. A small subset of this collection is investigated in this thesis due to time constraints. Of this subset, two ceramics can be attributed to the Moche civilization and two ceramics can be attributed to the Chimú civilization. With these attributions, the next step is to authenticate the ceramics. The profuse reproduction of pre-Columbian ceramics has been frequently ignored by opportunistic dealers and overlooked by collectors in private collections and directors and curators in museum collections. It is much simpler to brush aside these concerns of authenticity than actually delving into the origins of the object, as detailed in this thesis. Still, the story of this collection should have been written long ago, as many of the resources relied on for this investigation have been available for the past 30 years or more.