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Press release


November 3, 2000 — April 22, 2001
Special Exhibition Gallery, Rockefeller Wing

An unprecedented exhibition devoted solely to ancient Peruvian silver dating from the early part of the first millennium to the 16th century will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on November 3. Bringing together more than 100 works from public and private collections, Silver in Ancient Peru will explore the two-thousand-year-old tradition of sophisticated silver-working in Precolumbian Peru.

In ancient Peruvian cultures, precious metals had a special status. As materials, silver and gold were symbols of power and prestige and also held symbolic and religious significance. Objects of silver and gold — such as nose and ear ornaments — were worn exclusively by the elite, and expressed social status and political authority in life and in death when they were placed as offerings in tombs with the deceased.

From a modest beginning in the late first millennium B.C.E., silver was exploited to its fullest artistic measure from the 13th to 15th century when the Lords of the Chimu kingdom ruled the northern reaches of the Peruvian coast. Silver was used for objects of all kinds, from personal ornaments such as earflares and necklace beads, to large disks covered with concentric repoussé designs and vessels in the shape of human figures, animals, and birds. Among the highlights of the exhibition are a rare backrest of a royal wooden litter embellished with a scene in cutout sheet silver and a small votive figurine dressed in its original miniature garments and colorful feather headdress. Placed by the Inka in a child burial as an offering to the gods, it was discovered in 1954 near the top of Cerro El Plomo in central Chile at an altitude of 18,000 feet.

Silver in Ancient Peru will be accompanied by a catalogue.

The exhibition was initiated with the collaboration of the Americas Society, New York. The exhibition is organized by Heidi King, Research Associate of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Institutional lenders to the exhibition include the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Denver Art Museum; Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.; Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Krannert Art Museum, Champaign-Urbana, IL.; Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santiago, Chile.


May 8, 2000

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