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  • Description

    Lime-flask neck made of tumbaga by lost-wax casting with core. It has six human faces at the top with two curved lines of facial painting crossing the eyes. Four holes around the base may have served to attach it to a gourd-vessel. The two components assembled (metal-neck and gourd-vessel) would have completed the lime-flask.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 500BC-700
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 17 centimetres
    • Diameter: 8 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Register 1940:
    Gold-copper alloy "pedestal" of Tumbaga with six faces on top.
    Ancient Quimbaya work (c.1000-1500AD?), Cauca Valley, Colombia.
    Description published in National Art Collections Fund annual report for 1940.
    Specific gravity 9.7, only slightly higher than bronze, see report of laboratory August 1940.McEwan 2009
    This work blends mastery of tecnique with sensous elegance to stunning effect. It served as the neck of a lime flask and the four holes around the base were probably used to attach it to a gourd vessel. The two components assembled (metal neck and gourd vessel) would have completed the lime flask. At the top is an encircling row of six human faces, each with an incised line running vertically from the fore head across the eyes and down the cheeks. The closed eyes suggest an inner contemplative concern with the spirit realm, as opposed to the outwardly visible world. Some clues to understanding this state of consciousness are found on lime containers featuring full human figures evidently engaged in solemn seasonal rituals.Vila llonch 2013
    Some lime flasks were made of two parts – a container and a neck. This highly decorated neck with six identical cast faces is one of the most striking surviving examples of its kind. It would have been attached to a natural gourd. The opening at the top would have been used to insert the lime dipper.


  • Bibliography

    • Bray 1978 374 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2009 p. 120 bibliographic details
    • Vila Llonch 2013 p.134-135 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    1996, London, Museum of Mankind (Room 1), 'Gilded Image'
    2003/4 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, 'Saved!100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund'
    2012 Mar-Jul, Abu Dhabi, Manarat al Saadiyat, Treasures of the World's Cultures
            2012-2013 30 Nov-7 Apr, Bonn, Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2013 Oct 17 - 2014 Mar 23. BM, ‘Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in Ancient Colombia’

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Purchased by NACF from Lady Davies and presented to BM.

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: ESA19915

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