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Owl Finial

Date:
5th–10th century
Geography:
Colombia
Culture:
Zenu or Sinu
Medium:
Gold
Dimensions:
H. 4 3/4 x W. 2 5/8 x D. 1 3/4 in. (12.1 x 6.7 x 4.5 cm)
Classification:
Metal-Ornaments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.920
  • Description

    Gold objects from Precolumbian America are homogeneous in form—most are wearable ornaments, such as headdresses, pectorals, necklaces, ear and nose ornaments—but very diverse in style and iconography. Among unusual forms are the staff heads or finials from the Caribbean lowlands in northwestern Colombia. Thought to fit onto staffs of rank or office, they have a thimble-shaped cap topped with three-dimensional figures of birds, locally known animals, and humans. The small sculptures are often ornate and detailed, as is this perky owl sitting at the edge of the cap. Its broad head, turned at a right angle to its body, has beady eyes and a strong beak; it is framed by a braided element and topped by a ridged crest. The bird's bulging chest is composed of false filigree openwork, creating a pleasing contrast to the solid, brilliantly polished wings. The heavy, somewhat rough cast lends the bird spontaneity, which is underlined by the obvious flaw on the owl's right cheek. No effort was made to remove the excess gold blob.

  • Provenance

    [John Wise Ltd., New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on loan to the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978

  • See also
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
312501:1

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