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Pair of Ear Spools

Mixtec-Aztec, Postclassic, general
900-1520 CE
2.54 cm x 5.4 cm (1 in. x 2 1/8 in.)

On view


Ear piercing was among the most common of body modifications in ancient Mesoamerica, attested to by depictions in art and the great variety of ear ornaments. Materials ranged from paper and reeds to gold and jade. Shapes and sizes varied also, but most incorporated a cylindrical shaft, which might serve as the armature for more elaborate ear adornments or might itself be the adornment, sometimes called an “ear spool” after its shape (an alternate term, “ear plug,” invites confusion with the modern meaning of this expression). Ear spool cylinders were generally hollow and flanged at both ends.

The Bliss Collection pair of gold ear spools is simple and elegant. This simplicity makes it difficult to hypothesize about provenience, because the basic form was widely distributed geographically, though limited socially to those who were of high birth or had achieved high rank. Each ear spool may have been hammered from a single piece of metal or from several pieces and then joined.

Akademie der Künste 1959 Kunst Aus Mexiko Und Mittelamerika.Hochschule Für Bildende Künste, Berlin, Vom 3. Okt. Bis 22. Nov. 1959. Akademie der Künste, Berlin-Dahlem. cat. 849, ill. op. p. 96.

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. 27, cat. 131.

Centro di azione latina 1960 Arte Precolombiana Del Messico E Dell'america Centrale: Palazzo Dell Esposizioni, Roma, Novembre-Dicembre 1960. Centro di Azione Latina, Roma. cat. 136.

Haus der Kunst München 1958 Präkolumbische Kunst Aus Mexiko Und Mittelamerika. Ausstellungsleitung München e. V. Haus der Kunst, München. cat. 242, ill. op. p. 80.

Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main 1960 Präkolumbische Kunst Aus Mexiko Und Mittelamerika. Mai Bis September 1960, Historisches Museum, Frankfurt Am Main. Kuratorium Kulturelles Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main. cat. 131, pl. 10.

Kunsthaus Zürich 1959 Kunst Der Mexikaner. 24. Januar Bis 15. März, 1959. Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich. cat. 653, pl. VII.

Künstlerhaus Wien and Österreichische Kulturvereinigung 1959 Präkolumbische Kunst Aus Mexiko Und Mittelamerika, Und Kunst Der Mexikaner Aus Späterer Zeit Im Wiener Künstlerhaus, Wien I., Karlsplatz 5, Vom 22. Dezember 1959 Bis 29. Februar 1960. Österreichische Kulturvereinigung, Wien. cat. 765, ill. op. p 80.

Exhibition History
"Prakolumbische Kunst aus Mexico un Mittelamerika", Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, October - December 1958 (ill. opp. p. 80, catalogue #242).

"Kunst der Mexikaner", Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland, 1/24 - 3/15/1959 (Plate VII, catalogue # 653).

"Kunst aus Mexico and Mittelamerika", Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, Germany, 10/5 - 11/22/1959 (ill, opp. p. 96, catalogue # 849).

"Prakolumbische Kunst aus Mexico un Mittelamerika", Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria, 12/22/1959 - 2/29/1960 (ill. opp p. 80, catalogue # 765).

"Prakolumbische Kunst aus Mexico un Mittelamerika", Historisches Museum, Frankfurt, Germany, May - September 1960 (pl. 10, catalogue # 131).

"Arte Precolumbiana del Messico e dell' America Centrale", Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy, November - December 1960 (catalogue # 136).

Acquisition History
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1958.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1958-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Earrings | Earspools | Mixtecs