Pre-Columbian, North Coast of Peru, Sican/Lambayeque, ca. 10th to 11th century CE. A fabulous 14K gold ceremonial mask and an impressive number - 691 to be exact - of gold dress appliques on the form below - all circular with the exception of the U-schaped copper ornament at the center. The face presents almond-shaped eyes, characteristically upturned at the corners with bulging eyeballs from which protruding gold wires suspend circular dangers; a protruding nose from which a pair of copper wires suspend oblong danglers, and a delineated mouth flanked by jowel lines. His coiffure is decorated with 6 trapezoidal danglers - 3 on each side - and large circular ear ornaments, beaded on the peripheries in repousse and also decorated with a central circular dangler further embellish the mask. Interestingly, the eye danglers have been interpreted as tears or a magical/enhanced ability to see by scholars. Size: mask measures 8.75" W x 5.125" H (22.2 cm x 13 cm); shirt form 25.5" W x 16" H (64.8 cm x 40.6 cm); 29" H (73.7 cm) on included custom stand.
This luxurious ensemble was made to adorn the body of a deceased elite member of the Sican society; gold was for lords or kings, silver for noble women, and copper for wealthy commoners. The face most likely was not intended to represent an individual, but rather a stylized deity, as all of the known masks from the region follow a very similar formula. In this way, the deceased could readily assume a godly identity.
Sican elites were patrons of workshops that made fine metal objects like this mask and accompanying appliques, and they took their wealth with them when they passed away. Buried in mounds, these individuals would be entombed in high style. At the site of Batan Grande, for example, a single burial could include up to five masks - one on the head, and the others at the feet. Masks like the one featured here were placed in graves alongside headdresses, scepters, crowns, ceremonial weapons, and occasionally wooden litters used for burial.
The mask and the vast majority of the appliques contain about 60% gold which translates to 14 karats. The central U-shaped applique is copper and a few of the circular appliques are silver.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Arundel Collection "Old Curiosity Cabinet" Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, California, USA
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Gold mask, danglers, and appliques are all ancient. Fabric on shirt/dress form below is modern. Tiny pierced holes surround the visage for attachment. Normal areas of surface wear and tarnish. Mask shows slight bending and creases. Minute losses/tears to areas of peripheries.