The Tolima peoples of Colombia's Magdalena Valley produced a distinctive type of gold object that had a high degree of consistency over a considerable period of time. The objects, figure pendants with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic references, were worn about the neck suspended from cords or thongs; they are almost flat, with sharp, symmetrical outlines. Their standard, identifiable forms verge on abstraction, but facial features such as the long, slender noses, beady eyes, and toothy mouths are depicted more realistically. Two basic configurations are known; the present example is of the "winged" body type. It has the squarish face with big, loopy ears, inverted L-shaped ornaments on top of the head, perhaps representing plumes, and the large bifurcated tail common on both types. Its midsection, however, below the splayed, fringed "arms," features elaborate openwork, perhaps depicting feathers or even a feathered costume. It has been suggested that the animal references of Tolima spread "wing" pendants—perhaps to bats, birds, and serpents—relate the figures to shamanism.
[John Wise Ltd., New York, until 1957]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1957, on loan to the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1978
Bennett, Wendell C. Ancient Arts of the Andes: Museum of Modern Art, New York, in collaboration with the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco [and] the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1954.
The Art of Ancient and Modern Latin America: Selections from Public and Private Collections in the United States. New Orleans: Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, 1968, 189.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 463.
The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 27.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p.
Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.
Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring 2002), p. 28.