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Necklace With Pendant

Mixtec-Aztec, Postclassic, general
900-1520 CE
5.4 cm x 4.76 cm x 3.18 cm (2 1/8 in. x 1 7/8 in. x 1 1/4 in.)
gilded copper and turquoise

Not on view


This composite ornament is fashioned as a necklace of beads of various materials, including some that are covered with gold foil, and a pendant in the shape of a head. As was discussed in the essay on PC.B.109, such pendants are well known, and there are examples from Tomb 7 at Monte Albán and from a tomb in Coixtlahuaca in the Mixteca Alta, as well as the unprovenienced Xiuhtecuhtli pendant from Mexico City.

Those faces are all interpreted as the fire god Xiuhtecuhtli on the basis of their fanged mouths and beards. The face of PC.B.107 also has a beard, but this characteristic is sometimes also associated with Quetzalcoatl. The face is surmounted by a headband decorated with a disk motif. Such headbands are found on some of these mask-like faces, such as the mask of Xipe Totec found in Tomb 7. Stylized elements in false filigree, perhaps representing hair, decorate the sides of the face.

The material of the head has been described as copper covered with gold. The face has sustained considerable damage, and where the surface has been destroyed, the piece has corroded. Possibly the object was cast of a gold and copper alloy (tumbaga), and then the surface was treated so as to remove the copper, leaving the gold—a treatment termed “mise-en-couleur.” It is unclear whether the pendant and bead necklace (or some part of it) formed a coherent composition in antiquity.

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. 133.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, July 1960 to April 1962.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1960.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1960-1962.

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

Aztecs | Mixtecs | Necklaces