New World Art Tours the Old World

By Saboia, Patricia | Americas (English Edition), March-April 1990 | Go to article overview

New World Art Tours the Old World


Saboia, Patricia, Americas (English Edition)


Ritual objects musical instruments, mythological figures, vases and pots, religious masks, and jewelry in gold, platinum and turquoise make up a travelling exhibit of more than a hundred pieces of art from the museums Of the Central Bank of Quito and Guayaquil. The pieces date back as far as five thousand years before Christ, and half of them are on public view for the first time ever.

This collection of archeological treasures, entitled "Ecuador, the Land and its Gold," has most recently been on display in Paris. Those who have ventured into the well-appointed rooms of the Maison de l'Amerique Latine, in the middle of the Boulevard Saint Germain, have experienced the immense richness and originality of pre-columbian Ecuadorian styles and cultures. For the European lover of pre-columbian art, there is much to appreciate.

Where Europeans only began to cast platinum at the end of the 18th century, Ecuadorians were already master goldsmiths by 800 A.D. and had invented the alloying of gold with platinum, a metal that came into frequent use from that time forward. This refined technique reached its fullest expression in the districts of La Tolita and Jama-Coaque, where the goldsmithing workshops were located and which gave their names to two artistic periods. The work of these regions is beautifully exemplified in the exhibit by masks, pendants, earrings and brooches in gold and platinum. Two pieces from the period between 300 B.C. and 800 A.D. are particularly outstanding, each representing a mythical symbol: a solid gold brooch in the form of a lizard, and a pendant in gold and platinum depicting a figure that is both snake and jaguar.

Around 3000 B. …

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