Gold; H. 13 1/4 in. (33.6 cm)
Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1991 (1991.419.36)
In the last few centuries before the Spanish conquest in the 1530s, metalworkers in Colombia's middle Cauca River valley produced impressive ornaments that relied entirely on shape and surface quality for impact and presence. Gold had been worked into personal ornaments in this region for over a thousand years. Pectorals from earlier periods were very large in size also, but were elaborated and embellished with repoussé patterns and free-hanging elements. This striking T-shaped pectoral has a small face with eyes, nose, and mouth rendered in low relief on the flat surface in the center near the top. A beard or possibly a lip ornament appears beneath the mouth. There is no indication of a head. The entire edge of the simple yet elegant form is outlined with a row of raised dots. The interpretation of the human face on the inorganic form is challenging; it may be a highly abstract rendering of an anthropomorphic image.