In the ancient Americas, only items of personal adornment or ceremonial significance were made of metal. This small breastplate was clearly meant to impress. It was produced with a silver-gold alloy and decorated with a carefully structured and symbolically charged design. Two holes in the upper part enabled it to be suspended, probably on the chest of a person of importance. Its style suggests that it originated at or near Chavín de Huantar, a large ceremonial center in the northern Andean highlands. Perhaps the original owner she had achieved through a visit to the site.
The plate is decorated with a frontal feline face with an upturned mouth and fangs curving out to the sides. A pair of eyes stares out from under a furrowed brow, and the lower jaw is only suggested by the shape of the snakes that emerge below the mouth. This disembodied face is framed by a headdress of sorts, represented by petal-like appendages surrounding the composition. The outer perimeter of the plate is adorned with an angular braid motif. Overall, the design is reminiscent of one on a painted cotton textile recovered from the coastal site of Karwa. Both objects feature a disembodied feline face within a circular cartouche, outlined by a circular braid. Such design elements appear to be associated with an important sacred status. At Chavín de Huantar, they are associated with representations of eagles, caimans, mythical figures, priests, and the principal Chavín staffed deity.
Alva, Walter L. 1992 Orfebrería Del Formativo. In Oro Del Antiguo Perú, José Antonio de Lavalle, ed., pp. 17-118. 1. ed. Colección Arte Y Tesoros Del Perú. Banco de Credito del Perú en la Cultura, Lima. p. 59, pl. 46.
Bennett, Wendell C. 1955 32 Masterworks of Andean Art from the Exhibition Ancient Arts of the Andes. Museum of Primitive Art, New York. fig. 3.
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. 63, cat. 348.
Benson, Elizabeth P. 1972 The Mochica: A Culture of Peru. Art and Civilization of Indian America. Praeger, New York. fig. 1, 2.
Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 272, cat. 301, pl. CXXII.
Bliss, Robert Woods 1959 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. 2nd ed. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 280, cat. 301, pl. CXXII.
Boone, Elizabeth Hill (ED.) 1996 Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks; No. 1. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. vol. 1, p. 67-70, pl. 4.
Bühl, Gudrun (ED.) 2008 Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 441.
Burger, Richard L. 1992 Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization. Thames and Hudson, London. p. 202, fig. 221.
Bushnell, Geoffrey H. S. 1965 Ancient Arts of the Americas. Praeger World of Art Series. F. A. Praeger, New York. p. 153-154, fig. 143.
Emmerich, André 1965 Sweat of the Sun and Tears of the Moon: Gold and Silver in Pre-Columbian Art. University of Washington Press, Seattle. fig. 7.
Fux, Peter (ED.) 2013 Chavin: Peru's Enigmatic Temple in the Andes. Scheidegger & Spiess; Museum Rietberg, Zurich. p. 236, cat. 18.
Fux, Peter (ED.) 2015 Chavín. Primera edición. ed. Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima. p. 238, cat. 18.
Geo Magazine 2008 L'or Des Andes, Sur La Route Des Incas. In Special Issue of Geo Magazine, France. vol. Janvier-Mars 2008. p. 34.
Kelemen, Pál 1943 Medieval American Art, a Survey in Two Volumes. 2 v. vols. Macmillan, New York. p. 252-253, pl. 207a.
Larco Hoyle, Rafael 1941 Los Cupisniques. La Crónica; Variedades, Lima. p. 140-141, fig. 204.
Lavallée, Danièle and Luis Guillermo Lumbreras 1985 Les Andes De La Préhistoire Aux Incas. Le Monde Précolombien; 3. Gallimard, Paris. p. 68.
Lothrop, Samuel K. 1951 Gold Artifacts of Chavin Style. American Antiquity 16 (3):226-240. p. 226-240.
Matthews, Roy T. and F. DeWitt Platt 2000 The Western Humanities. 4th ed. Mayfield Publishing Co., Mountain View, CA. p. 84.
Matthews, Roy T. and F. DeWitt Platt 2004 The Western Humanities. 5th ed. McGraw-Hill, Boston. p. 84.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology 1961 Twenty-Five Centuries of Peruvian Art: 700 B. C.-1800 A. D.: Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 4-November 5, 1961. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. cat. 7.
Museum of Primitive Art 1962 Gods with Fangs: The Chavin Civilization of Peru. Exhibition, Feb. 21-May 6, 1962. Museum of Primitive Art, New York. cat. 19.
Paul, Anne 2000 Protective Perimeters: The Symbolism of Borders on Paracas Textiles. Res 38:144-167. p. 163, fig. 26.
Quilter, Jeffrey 2005 Treasures of the Andes: The Glories of Inca and Pre-Columbian South America. Duncan Baird, London. p. 43.
Pillsbury, Joanne and Kim Richter (EDS.) 2017 Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas. J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. p. 142, cat. 14.
Rowe, John H. 1962 Chavín Art, an Inquiry into Its Form and Meaning. Museum of Primitive Art, New York. pl. 22.
Sawyer, Alan R. 1961 Paracas and Nazca Iconography. In Essays in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology, Samuel K. Lothrop, ed., pp. 507. Harvard University Press, Cambridge. p. 279-281.
Stone-Miller, Rebecca 1996 Art of the Andes: From Chavín to Inca. World of Art. Thames & Hudson, New York. p. 45, fig. 31.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, May 1948 to July 1962.
"Ancient Art of the Andes", Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1/26 - 3/21/1954; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, 4/21 - 6/13/1954; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, 7/23 - 9/19/1954.
"25 Centuries of Peruvian Art, 700 BC-1800 AD", Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, 10/4 - 11/12/1961 (catalogue # 7).
"Gods With Fangs", Museum of Primitive Art, New York, NY, 2/21 - 5/6/1962 (catalogue # 19).
"Chavìn: Peru's Mysterious Temple in the Andes", Museum Rietberg, Zurich, Switzerland, 11/23/12 – 3/10/13.
"Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas", The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles CA, 9/16/2017 - 1/28/2018; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY, 2/27/2018 - 5/28/2018.
Formerly in the collection of Juan Dalmau, Trujillo, Peru, before 1941.
Purchased from Juan Dalmau by Joseph Brummer (dealer).
Joseph Brummer Gallery, New York (dealer), until 1947.
Purchased from Ernest Brummer, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, June 17, 1947.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1947-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.