H. 8 3/4 x W. 11 x D. 1 3/8 in. (22.2 x 27.9 x 3.5 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
A large H-shaped nose pendant almost entirely obscures the face at the center of this gold, kidney-shaped pectoral. Both the shape of the pectoral and the form of the nose pendant are hallmarks of Yotoco-period Calima art. The Yotoco period was the second of three societies—Ilama, Yotoco-Malagana, and Sonso—to successively occupy the Cauca Valley region in west-central Colombia. The three societies are known collectively as the Calima culture.
The upper portions of the eyes are just visible above the H-shaped pendant, and the head itself is surmounted by a dome shaped cap with a small rectangular crest at the top. Two large, circular, convex ear pendants with concave, circular centers hang from gold wires. The H-shaped pendant itself bears a smaller, more stylized embossed face. Through layers of adornment and repetition, the pectoral simultaneously reveals and conceals faces.
Faces in Yotoco artwork are often inexpressive, and represent idealized types rather than true portraiture. This type of face is also commonly found on headdress ornaments (see 66.196.24), where they also bear little variation across different works. Some scholars have suggested stylistic similarities between Calima gold figures and stone sculptures found at San Agustín, an archaeological site in west-central Colombia, due to the recurrence of impassive faces with dome-shaped caps as a central motif. The design along the border of the pectoral, framed by a row of raised dots, resembles decorative details painted on ceramics from this region.
The pectoral was shaped by first hammering a gold-copper alloy known as tumbaga into a sheet, which was subsequently cut into the desired shape. The artist could then add details by working the sheet with a bone or metal tool over a soft anvil made of leather or a sack of fine sand. It is likely that the face in high relief was shaped over a mold.
The pectoral would have been worn over the chest, suspended by a cord through the two small holes located directly above the cap. Pectorals would have been worn as part of a suite of ornaments with similar iconographic elements that adorned the torso, neck, and head, almost entirely obscuring the face (see 66.196.23, 1974.271.51, and 1991.419.40). Dressed in full regalia, Calima elites would have shone brightly, channeling the sun’s divinity and force as a source of life and renewal.
Andrés A. Bustamante, 2015
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[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