Colombia: Subtle Genius - Collecting Pre-Colombian Gold


SUBTLE GENIUS: Collecting Pre-Colombian Gold, showcases a gallery exhibition surveying goldworks created for the pre-Colombian elite dating from 1500 BC to AD 1500. This catalog is arranged into three broad areas: (1) Peru and Ecuador, (2) Columbia, and (3) Panama and Costa Rica. Within these groups, the works are arranged chronologically. This comprehensive collection consists of 45 unique exquisite gold objects, including shamanic figures, jewelry, pendants, and lime dippers used in hallucinogenic rituals. These objects are representative of the great metallurgical traditions of South America and drew the Conquistadors from Europe.

This book contains 45 full color pages with over 100 color images, including a color image and description of each piece in the collection. The book contains a historical survey of the Spanish conquest of gold, as well as an in-depth technical analysis of Pre-Colombian goldworking techniques. There is a section at the end of the book discussing the authentication process, scientific and stylistic authentication methodologies, and collecting.

The Pre-Hispanic people were not interested in gold for its economic function but rather for the belief in the power imbued in the golden images they created. Gold was perceived as magical, spiritual and transformative by Pre-Colombian kings only after the gold was fashioned into cultural totems, whereas the kings of Spain and their European neighbors only valued the gold when it was melted down into simple bars for their treasuries. Many of these works were owned, worn, and buried with high-status individuals such as kings, shamans, and elites, to ensure their status in the afterlife. The decoration of gold objects was used as a medium to convey messages beyond wealth and status.

Many pieces in this collection have either been published or are comparable to published examples and objects in museum collections in the United States and Europe. This exhibition introduces collectors and enthusiasts to a sampling of the range of gold objects produced in South America prior to the arrival of Europeans. Author David Bernstein has been a Pre-Columbian expert and gallerist in New York for over 40 years.

Available on our site as a free PDF or on Amazon in Kindle version for $4.99

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