Pre-Columbian, South America, Colombia, Muisca, ca. 1000 to 1550 CE. Expertly cast via the lost wax (cire perdue) process, a gold (75% gold, equivalent to 18K) stylized nude male figure presenting details of his face, limbs, hands, feet, genitals, and decorative ornaments either comprised of flat wirelike elements or cut out gold sheet. His expressive visage features coffee bean shaped eyes, a straight nose, and a coffee bean shaped mouth. Though nude, he is decorated with ear ornaments, a necklace, a shoulder ornament falling from the left shoulder, and an openwork crown or headband. His arms bend at the elbows so that his hands are held to his chest. Size: 6.75" H (17.1 cm); 7.125" H (18.1 cm) on included custom stand. Weight: 23.1 grams
This type of figure is known as a tunjo, meant as an offering to communicate with the gods. They are found deposited in Lake Guatavita and other important bodies of water in the region, buried in caches, as grave ornaments, and at the entrances to temples. The use of gold on this example indicates its value - most are made of copper or other less precious metals.
Julie Jones' "The Art of Precolumbian Gold" discusses Muisca gold tunjos as follows: "Human images are the most common type of Muisca tunjo, the class of metal objects found in the high Andes around Bogota, the present capital of Colombia, established by the Spaniards in 1539.The figures were used as votive objects; they were always differentiated by sex, and a great amount of specific detail was worked into them. Mothers and children, warriors, and coca chewers are common tunjo representations. Published information on the specific groupings of the objects as they were cached - the chief manner of offering - is scant. The Museo del Oro in Bogota has documented a good-sized group said to be the contents of a cache that was found shallowly buried in an open field in Funza, Cundinamarca . . ."
Jones continues with a discussion of Muisca goldsmithing techniques and practices, "Muisca tunjos were not worked after casting. Flaws were not corrected, excess metal was not removed, surfaces were not polished; they were left as they came out of the mold. Even molding sprues could remain. . . The spontaneity of manufacture plus the artistic means . . . and the manner in which they were used, set the Muisca tunjos apart from other Precolumbian gold objects." (Ed. Julie Jones, "The Art of Precolumbian Gold: The Jan Mitchell Collection." Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1985, p. 166)
Provenance: private Tennessee, USA collection
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Minute casting flaws and sprues as is consistent with Muisca techniques. See discussion of these in extended description. Missing elements of right earring and possibly headdress and left shoulder ornament. Still marvelous with most elements very well preserved as well as quite sizeable.