Height: 11.500 cm
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Gold funerary mask
Quimbaya, AD 600-1100
This funerary mask, cast in the classic form of the Quimbaya style, represents a person with filed teeth and wearing a nose ornament. In common with many Quimbaya figures in gold, the eyes on this mask appear closed. This may be used as a visual device to give the idea that the gaze is not directed outward to the visible world, but rather focused on the spirit realm and the sources of natural inspiration.
The ancient cultures of present-day Colombia used a variety of metalworking techniques, such as hammering, casting and gilding. The Quimbaya culture developed in the central valley of the Cauca River, in south-western Colombia. Quimbaya metalwork is renowned for the use of the lost-wax method of casting. In this process, a clay and charcoal core is fully modelled in the round and then covered with a layer of beeswax and the details of the finished object are added in wax. A clay mould is then applied over the wax. When heated, the wax melts and the molten metal is poured into the mould. This method was used to produce objects on a large scale.
C. McEwan (ed.), Precolumbian gold, technology, (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Goldwork and shamanism: an ico, Medellín, Colombia, Editorial Colina (, 1988)
W. Bray, The gold of El Dorado, exh. cat. (London, Times Newspapers and Royal Academy of Arts, 1978)