Headdress Ornament, Gold, Calima (Yotoco)

Headdress Ornament

1st–7th century
Calima (Yotoco)
H. 10 x W. 9 3/8 in. (25.4 x 23.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1991
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
Elaborate ornaments like the present example expressed the wealth and status of the wearer. Worn attached to a turban, basketry headdress, or other form of textile construction, it would have offered a spectacular sight when in motion with its many free-swinging surfaces. Yotoco headdress frontals come from the Calima River Valley in southwest Colombia and are complex constructions of many individual pieces of cut sheet gold assembled with gold wire.

This ornament has a central human face rendered in high relief. From the septum of the nose hangs an H-shaped ornament so large that it obscures the lower half of the face. It bears a stylized low-relief face. Big disks are suspended from each ear. Yet a third relief face appears on the bottom of the ornament. It would have rested on the wearer's forehead. The relief decoration was executed with blunt chisels and punches, while the gold sheet rested on a soft surface such as pitch, leather, or soft wood.
Jan Mitchell, New York, acquired by 1969, until 1991

Jones, Julie. The Art of Precolumbian Gold: The Jan Mitchell Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985, no. 54, pp. 190-191.

Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring 2002), p. 11.