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Pre-Columbian populations of Central America favored objects of fine stone and gold, polished to a brilliant sheen. Reflective materials were associated with supernatural powers such as the sun, moon, rain, rivers, and other natural phenomena. These objects were seen as charged with cosmological power as a materialization of light. Thus polished jade, gold, silver, iridescent feathers, and lustrous seashell, as symbols of power, were worn by individuals of influence and ultimately were buried with them.
Here two male figures appear between upper and lower curved bands of sheet metal. The figures are partially obscured by twelve dangling ornaments in front. Cast using the lost-wax process, they wear headdresses but are otherwise unadorned. Their slit legs reveal what appear to be the fibula and tibia of the personages, held together with a double cord. A rope binds them together at the waist, and a vertical one runs at the center of the composition, separating the personages. When worn, the dangles would have created a dazzling effect, their bright reflective surfaces catching the light and animating the figures.
Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 41, cat. 225.
Bühl, Gudrun (ED.) 2008 Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections. Published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 242-3.
Lothrop, Samuel K. 1963 Archaeology of the Diquís Delta, Costa Rica. Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University 51. Peabody Museum, Cambridge, Mass., p. 96-97, pl. XLI.
Von Winning, Hasso and Alfred Stendahl 1968 Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America. H.N. Abrams, New York. pl. 559.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, February 1958 to July 1962.
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, August 14, 1956.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1956-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.