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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Archive : Pre-Columbian Art / Gold Mask with a Headdress Featuring Two Birds
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Pre-Columbian Art / Gold Mask with a Headdress Featuring Two Birds - FJ.6241
Origin: Costa Rican/Panamanian Border Area
Circa: 500 AD to 1550 AD
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high x 4.5" (11.4cm) wide
Catalogue: V23
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Gold

Additional Information: Sold...272.4 grams Trudy

Location: United States
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Iconographic symbolism in Costa Rican gold is often quite esoteric, despite obvious representational aspects. A frog motif means a frog, yet it also has a meaning related to a mythology long forgotten. However, there is no such ambiguity in this utterly fantastic gold mask. Its power is immediate and immediately understandable. Holding this mask we come face to face with a life-like portrait of someone who lived hundreds of years ago; and still seems alive through the remarkable skills of a highly talented goldsmith and, through the radiant gold itself. The ornamentation is a sheer marvel. The man wears an elegant headdress of two birds, (probably parrots), seen in profile. Their beaks are very long, extending beyond the man's ears, and at such an angle they effectively frame the entire mask. These marvelous birds themselves wear a headdress of delicate spirals. Their eyes are like tiny screws surrounded by a loop. Combined with the double-banded strand used for the mouths, gives the birds a gentle and slightly amused expression. The headdress is completed by a band around the man's forehead composed of a series of spirals. Similar spirals, though on a larger scale, form the ears, which are ornamented with oval shaped danglers. All of these elements serve to accentuate the man's very expressive face. He seems almost in a trance, his eyes narrowed to slits, leaving us to wonder if he is watching us or not. His features are very realistic, with high cheekbones and forehead. The prominent teeth were considered a sign of beauty. What we are seeing here is probably an important nobleman or shaman preparing for a ritual ceremony. The figure may represent the acutal person who wore the mask, acting as a sort of double or alter ego. Loops on the back show it was meant to be worn, and the rattle inside was intended as a form of announcement when shaken; a herald for a person of prominence. One surprising element is the spiral designs on the back of the head, very much like braids of hair. This mask is more than an ornament; it is a true sculpture made of gold for someone whose significance is as mysterious as a mythical religion; someone whose power is still active and who lives on through the ages with the potent aura of a pharaoh....trudy - (FJ.6241)


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