Larco Museum of Lima
The Larco museum is one of the most important in the city of Lima. It exhibits ceramics, textiles, objects of gold, silver and more; from the beginnings of civilization in Peru to the immense Inca empire. It stands out for its collection of ‘huacos portraits’ from the Mochica culture. Also for its spacious and educational rooms. It was founded in 1926 by archaeologist Rafael Larco Hoyle making it one of the oldest museums in the country. It can be visited from Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm.
All about the Larco Museum in Lima
The Rafael Larco Herrera archaeological museum exhibits one of the most complete collections of pre-Columbian art in Peru.
It was founded in 1926 by the Peruvian archaeologist Rafael Larco Hoyle, who donated part of his private collection to form the beginnings of the museum.
It is one of the oldest museums in the country. Its most famous collections are its gold and silver objects as well as a collection of ‘erotic huacos’, mainly from the Mochica culture.
The exhibited objects cover five thousand years of history of pre-Columbian Peru. Ceramics from the Mochica cultures stand out, as well as textiles from the Nazca culture. Of course it also exhibits objects from the Inca empire.
It has a permanent exhibition room as well as a room that shows an ‘erotic gallery’. It also has a garden area and a cafeteria.
The museum owns is the first to publish an online catalog. It also offers publications and an important research area.
The museum lends part of its collection to some rooms abroad as well as to the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in the city of Cusco.
The museum is located on Avenida Simón Bolívar 1515 in the Pueblo Libre district.
How to get there?
The museum is 6.3 kilometers from downtown Lima and 9 kilometers from Miraflores district, where most tourists stay.
To get there it is a good option to take a taxi (price of the trip between 5 to 10 dollars).
Another option is to take public transport. From Miraflores you can take the bus line ‘IO-89’. The trip lasts almost 1 hour.
Rafael Larco Hoyle
The museum is named after the important Peruvian archaeological Rafael Carlos Víctor Constante Larco Hoyle (1901 – 1966). He was the son of the famous businessman, politician and philanthropist Rafael Larco Herrera.
His secondary and higher studies were carried out abroad. He returned to Peru in 1923 as president of the hacienda that his family inherited. From a very young age he was interested in archeology, influenced mainly by the collection of pre-Columbian ceramics that his father owned.
Through the years he inherited and acquired different collections of art from ancient Peru. Thus, in 1926 Rafael Larco Hoyle gathered more than 45 thousand archaeological pieces to found the Larco Museum in Lima.
The first object in the museum was a Mochica portrait that was a gift from his father Rafael Larco Herrera in 1923.
Rafael Larco Hoyle also stood out for his important research on archeology. His research focused mainly on the cultures of the north coast of Peru: Mochica, Chimú, Cupisnique, Salinar and more.
In 1953, the sugar businesses caused him to move from the Chiclin farm in the north to the city of Lima. The transfer included the large collection of archaeological objects that were located in the colonial house of Pueblo Libre, where they continue to this day.
The museum rooms
The museum has a permanent exhibition room as well as a special room for ‘erotic huacos’.
- Introductory room: This first room summarizes the journey through the museum, from the first inhabitants of ancient Peru to the time of the Incas. A few steps away there is a ‘video room’ and a ‘library’.
- Rooms of the cultures of ancient Peru: The following rooms (2, 3, 4 and 5) show a chronological development of the cultures of ancient Peru. The exhibition of the ‘Pacopampa stela’, the ‘Aia Apaec travels’, a display case with ‘Mochica portrait bottles’, the ‘Nazca Drum’ and more stand out.
- Textile room from ancient Peru: The next room (6) exhibits beautiful textiles from ancient Peru, mainly from the Paracas culture. Next to this room there is an exhibition called ‘Syncretism’, which presents works by Peruvian artists influenced by European techniques.
- Sacrifice ceremony room: This room (7) shows various artifacts used in sacrificial ceremonies, mainly in the Mochica culture. A ceremonial vase stands out in which forms allusive to death can be seen. The Mochicas performed human sacrifice rituals.
- Hall of ceremonial vessels: The next room (8) exhibits ceremonial vessels related to the cult of fertility, human sacrifice and the worship of the gods. One of the most emblematic pieces is a container from the Chimú culture, made of gold and silver.
- Music and ritual war room: The music and ritual war room (9) shows various objects, mainly made of gold and silver, that were used by cultures from ancient Peru for war ceremonies. These also included musical instruments such as drums, whistles, quenas, antaras, and more.
- Death room in ancient Peru: The next room (10) shows all the utensils used by ancient Peruvian cultures during religious ceremonies related to death . For many cultures, life and death were a transition to a higher life. In the room there is a funerary bundle and a gold mask from the Huari culture.
- Gold and jewelery room: The last rooms (11, 12 and 13) display pieces of great value as they are, for the most part, gold and silver jewelery that adorned the clothes of the rulers. Necklaces, bracelets, rings, earmuffs, funeral headdresses, nose rings, pectorals and even the famous nose rings from the Mochica culture stand out.
Exhibition of erotic huacos: This room is also called ‘Erotic room’ because it is made up of the famous ‘erotic huacos’ of the Mochica culture and other civilizations of the north coast in ancient Peru:
These are the exhibits:
- Room of the female body and motherhood: This room shows ceramics with representations of the woman’s genitalia. Objects such as: ‘the Mochica bottle representing female genitalia’, ‘breastfeeding women’, ‘women in labor’ and more stand out.
- Room of sexual union and fertility: This room exhibits ceramics that represent the sexual act and the cult of fertility. These unions were not always intended to procreate. For example representations of anal sex, fellatio and more. Highlights: the ‘primitive copulation’, ‘the union between Aia Paec and a woman’, the copulation in Paccha Recuay ‘and more.
- Room of the world below: This room shows the sexual relationship between the living and the dead (the world below). For the Mochicas, the people who inhabited the world of the dead were sex addicts who related not only to each other, but also to the people of the world of the living. Ceramics stand out such as ‘masturbatory sexual activity’, ‘scenes of sexual interaction with Mochica ancestor’, ‘dead playing instruments’ and more.
- Non-reproductive sexual union room: This room shows sex scenes with a non-reproductive purpose such as fellatio, anal sex and even masturbation. Research relates this practice to the cult of the world of the dead present on earth, rain, rivers, etc. In this room, ceramics stand out such as: the ‘Tinkuy sexual’, ‘non-reproductive sexual activity’, the ‘woman playing the predominant role in sexual union’.
- Room of the male body and sexual propitiation: The ceramics in this room represent the male body initiating the sexual act with kisses, caresses and touching the female body. Ceramics stand out such as: ‘Mochica bottle representing male genitalia’, ‘Mochica fellatio scenes’, ‘representation of female genitalia’, etc.
The Larco Museum in Lima also has a video room, a research room as well as a large and pleasant cafeteria.
The place also offers custody of belongings, free Wi-Fi, exhibitions in different languages, public telephone, parking service, toilet services as well as the Larco museum, boutique store.
Price of admission
This is the cost of the entrance ticket to the museum:
- Adults: 35 Peruvian soles.
- Adults over 60 years: 30 Peruvian soles.
- University, secondary and primary students: 17 Peruvian soles.
- Children up to 8 years old: free.
You can buy tickets at the door of the museum or online through the museum’s website.
Hours of operation
The museum’s hours of operation are from Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The museum has ramps and easy access for people in wheelchairs, baby carriages and even guide dogs.
Non-professional photographs (without flash) are allowed inside the museum’s exhibition rooms. However, the use of tripods, selfie sticks and other implements for professional production is not allowed.
Take advantage of your visit to the city of Lima to visit other museums such as: the Pachacamac site museum, the Lima art museum (MALI), the Huaca Pucllana site museum, the national museum of archeology, anthropology and history of Peru, etc.
The museum’s website also has an ‘online catalog’ that is freely accessible to anyone. By requesting permission by email, the collection can also be accessed for research purposes.