Pre-Columbian, Central America, Panama, Veraguas culture / Grand Chiriqui Period V-VI, ca. 800 to 1500 CE. A huge gold (85% pure, equivalent to 20K+) pendant in the form of a double-headed bird. Its tail feathers and wings are broad and flat, spread out below and to either side of the raised bodies and heads of the twin birds. Each bird's head is ornate, with bulging eyes and a large crest along their long, wide beaks. With two loops on the undersides of the beaks to make it wearable. Size: 4.5" W x 2.25" H (11.4 cm x 5.7 cm); 4.35" H (11 cm) on included custom stand; gold is 82% pure, with 14% copper and 3% silver. Total weight: 42.8 grams
According to "The Art of Pre-Columbian Gold: the Jan Mitchell Collection" catalogue, "Isthmian bird-form pendants were first called 'eagles,' aguilas, when Christopher Columbus sailed along Caribbean Central America in the early 1500s. Columbus and his men saw the bird pendants being worn about the neck by the peoples of the coast, in the manner of 'an Agnus Dei or other relic' (Colon, 1959). They named the pendants aguilas, a name they have kept to this day. In the present century, the generalized avian form of the pendants has given rise to much discussion over which type of bird is represented (see Cooke & Bray, this catalogue). Some authorities believe that the pendants depict birds of prey, thereby endorsing the Spanish name. The prominence of beaks and claws, and the various items held in their beaks, support such a view. . . Veraguas eagles are sharp-edged and clean of outline, particularly when compared to those of Chiriqui style with their rounded contours. Wings and tail are worked more laterally . . . Veraguas eagles are also often more elaborated around the head and hold fewer things in their beaks." (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1985, p. 112).
Columbus's expedition to the area - his last to the New World - included contact with the Veraguas, who, according to his records, embalmed their dead and bedecked them in gold finery. He traveled with a local guide to the furthest west port of their territory, where he encountered twenty canoes manned by people wearing nothing but gold plates and a gold eagle. Fascinatingly, what most struck Columbus and his men was that these gold ornaments were worn by nearly everyone amongst the Veraguas - the leader was dressed like everyone else! Indeed, what most impressed Ferdinand Columbus, the explorer's son who had accompanied him on the mission, was the number of wives that the leader had, apparently the true indication of wealth in that society.
Provenance: ex-Howard Rose Gallery, New York, New York, USA
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Small losses to edges of tail feathers. Light patina on surface. One of the birds' heads is slightly bent. Otherwise in beautiful condition.