Capturing the mystique of ancient artifacts
The term "Pre-Columbian art" encompasses the entire oeuvre of
the Western Hemisphere over a time span of 5,000 years. The most commonly
recognized examples — from the (relatively brief) Inca civilization, the
Maya culture of Mexico and Guatemala, and the various cultures of west
Mexico — only hint at this monumental collecting category.
A representation of Huehueteotl, the wind god, circa 500-700 A.D.
Dig a little deeper, and you'll find metallurgy, textiles, ceramics, and
wood and stone carvings from around 3,500 B.C. (the earliest known art
forms, created by the Valdavia culture on the Ecuadorian coast) to the
coming of Christopher Columbus.
Most of the cultures involved were animistic, believing that everything in
nature was imbued with a soul or spirit. They favored ornamentation in
body painting and tattooing as well as decorating palaces, temples, and homes.
Art objects could be simultaneously utilitarian and spiritual; for
example, a ceramic vessel made by the Mayan culture in Guatemala in the
6th century could be used in daily life and later placed in the tomb for
use in the afterlife. Western Mexican ceramic sculptures of females could
represent either servants or concubines in the afterlife; the familiar
burnished terra cotta Colima dogs (representing the Mexican hairless dog,
bred as food) were often placed in tombs as fodder for the great beyond.
The missionaries who arrived with Columbus destroyed a vast number of
important pieces of this "pagan idolatry" in the name of
Christianity. Surviving art runs the gamut from abstract to spiritual and
mythological imagery to the pictorial rendering of historic events (a
marriage, a birthing scene, scenes of war, or everyday occurrences).
Fodder for the afterlife — terra cotta Colima dog, circa 700 B.C. - 200 A.D.
The subject of Pre-Columbian artefacts is vast - experts need to have a
grounding in Tribal Art, as well as the aspects that influenced it - Inca,
Mayan, Mexican, as well as its later influences: Spanish, Christian, etc.
Page: Let's examine the subject of collecting Pre-Columbian art:
| THE MARKET
| AUTHENTICITY | CONDITION
For price comparables, we recommend several reference
books, to the right, as well as back issues of Christie's and Sotheby's auction
catalogues for Pre-Columbian sales. When a catalogue is first issued, it
will list an estimate; approximately a month after the auction you can get
a "prices realized" list.
Olmec Art and Archaeology in Mesoamerica
by John Clark
Maya Art and Architecture
by Mary Ellen Miller
Star Gods of the Maya:
Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars
by Susan Milbrath
Life, Myth and Art
by Timothy Laughton
The Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec
by Mary Ellen Miller
Art of the Andes:
From Chavin to Inca
by Rebecca Stone-Miller
Pre-Columbian Art and the Post-Columbian World:
Ancient American Sources of Modern Art
by Barbara Braun
by Esther Pasztory
Designs from Pre-Columbian Mexico
by Jorge Enciso
Ancient Peruvian Art:
An Annotated Bibliography
by Helaine Silverman
A Guide to Pre-Columbian Art
by Jean Paul Barbier
Investigations and Insights
by Hildegard Delgado Pang
Official Guide to Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations
by Alex G. Malloy, Harmer Johnson
for Ancient Egypt : Art, Architecture, and Artifacts from the University
of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
by University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and