Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bird Finial

10th–16th century
H. 2 1/2 x W. 1 1/2 in. (5 x 3.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of David, Geila, and Tess E. Bernstein, in memory of Professor Mario Mignucci, 2004
Accession Number:
Not on view
Staff heads or finials are among the more unusual objects from ancient Colombia and are functionally not well understood. They were quite common only in the Sinú region in northwestern Colombia, where they were cast in copper and gold. In the neighboring northwestern Tairona area, they are not known in metal but a few carved bone examples are said to have come from burials on the Caribbean coast. This finial features a bird standing on an oval platform. The bird has strong legs and wings that are folded on its sides. Its long neck, wearing a necklace with incised decoration, is turned back and its head, with big round eyes and curved beak, rests on its body. The head and neck are also decorated with a geometric pattern. The fleshy protuberance above the bird's beak may indicate that the bird is a condor. A hole on the underside suggests that the finial was mounted on a staff and secured with ties around its incurved base.
David Bernstein Fine Art, New York, until 2004

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