Mixtec artisans were famous for their extraordinarily refined miniature carvings made in a variety of materials, creating objects of virtually perfect design and workmanship. Although gold-working was common from an early time in far Central and South America, it was hardly used in Middle America until the Postclassic period. The Mixtecs were among the greatest metal workers in the Americas and particularly adept at cast gold work.
This cast gold pectoral ornament in the shape of a mask depicts a human face with large bulging eyes, an elaborate filigree headdress, ear ornaments, and a labret worn inserted into a hole in the lower lip. It would have originally been worn hanging over the chest. Smaller decorative ornaments were part of the larger elaborate costume accoutrements for nobility—often worn on the face, forehead, arms, legs, and chest—and thus projected both elite status and supernatural power. Objects such as these often accompanied the king and other nobility on the journey through death to the otherworld.
Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 26.
Carol Robbins, Label text [1968.20], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.
Kathy Windrow, DMA unpublished material, 1992.
DMA unpublished material, 2009.
- In the Aztec language (Nahuatl), the word for gold is teocuitlatl, which translates to “excrement of the gods” (teotl (god) and cuitlatl (excrement)).