Pectoral with Face

Calima (Yotoco)

Not on view

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

Published References

Falchetti de Sáenz, Ana María. "The Darién Gold Pendants of Ancient Colombia and the Isthmus." Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 43 (2008), p. 43.

Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring, 2002), p. 12.


New York, Museum of Primitive Art, 1957, 1959, 1966.

Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Gold Before Columbus," March 15–May 1 1964.

New Orleans, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art. "Art in Ancient and Modern Latin America in U.S. Collections," May 10–June 16 1968, no. 187.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts, December 1 1968-January 12 1969; Chicago Art Institute, February 1–March 9 1969; Richmond Museum of Fine Arts, March 24–April 20 1969. "The Gold of Ancient America: Masterpieces from the Pre-Columbian World."

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of Oceania, Africa and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art." May 19–August 17 1969, extended to September 1, 1969.

Further Reading

Botero, Clara Isabel, Roberto Lleras Pérez, Santiago Londoño Vélez and Efraín Sánchez Cabra. The Art of Gold, The Legacy of Pre-Hispanic Colombia: Collection of the Gold Museum of Bogotá. Mexico, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, Banco de la República, 2007.

Jones, Julie, ed. The Art of Precolumbian Gold: The Jan Mitchell Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985.

Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring, 2002).

Pérez de Barradas, José. Orfebrería Prehispánica de Colombia Estilo Calima. Bogotá, Colombia: Banco de la República, 1954.

Morand, Marie Claude. Calima: Colombie précolombienne. Martigny, Switzerland: Foundation Pierre Gianadda, 1992.

Schrimpff, Marianne Cardale, ed. Calima and Malagana: Art and Archaeology in Southwestern Colombia. Bogotá, Colombia: Pro Calima Foundation, 2005.

Pectoral with Face, Gold (hammered), Calima (Yotoco)

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