Bell in form of human head

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General Description

Mixtec artisans were famous for their extraordinarily refined miniature carvings made in a variety of materials, creating objects of virtually perfect design and workmanship. 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.

Though not the first metal workers in the Americas, the Mixtecs were among the greatest. Cast by the lost-wax method, this copper bell in the form of a human head bears dangling ear ornaments, a filigree beard, and a headdress with distinctive horn-like elements. Mixtec lords tied strips of jaguar skin around their wrists and above their knees, from which dangled copper and gold bells. The sounds of these bells, joined by flutes and the aromas of incense and herbs, altered and controlled the visions of those lords when they made contact with the supernatural. Objects such as these often accompanied the king and other nobility on the journey through death to the otherworld.

Adapted from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1968.20], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • Kathy Windrow, DMA unpublished material, 1992.

  • DMA unpublished material, 2009.