Circular plaque: reptile design

DATE:
700–1550 CE
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Gold
CLASSIFICATION:
Coins, Medallions and Plaques
DIMENSIONS:
5 3/4 × 5 5/8 × 1/4 in. (14.61 × 14.29 × 0.64 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Americas
LOCATION:
Ancient Art of the Americas - A. H. Meadows Galleries, Level 4
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison
COPYRIGHT:
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art
OBJECT NUMBER:
1976.W.240

General Description

Among the societies of Central America, gold ornaments were important symbols of power and prestige that expressed authority and status in life and in death. Made to be suspended around the neck, gold plaques and pendants were still worn by local inhabitants of the Caribbean coast of present-day Costa Rica and Panama when Europeans encountered them at the turn of the 16th century. The two holes at the top suggest this gold circular plaque would have originally been worn hanging over the chest as a pectoral fastened either to a neckband or garment. Often referred to as patenas, many examples of such pectorals have been found from this region and are usually similar in size with simple decoration of raised dots around the rim and highly polished surfaces. Others feature figural designs and large bosses, as seen in this example. The image is flattened and bilaterally symmetrical for maximum decorative effect and features a reptile design surrounded by circular bosses. Though their exact meaning is unknown, gold objects such as these were likely worn on ceremonial occasions and would have created a dazzling golden image.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Pendant with two frogs (1976.W.292), Pendant bell depicting a turtle (1976.W.301), Pendant depicting a batlike mask (1976.W.237)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 35.

  • Carol Robbins, "Pendant depicting a figure with batlike mask (1976.W.237)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 181.

  • "Pectoral Disk (Patena) (1977.187.28)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1977.187.28/. (August 2009).

Fun Facts

  • This circular plaque was featured in the World of Ancient Gold exhibit at the New York's World's Fair, Travel and Transportation Pavilion (April 22-October 18, 1964).