Ancient Art Links: Art of the Ancient Americas in the Metropolitan Museum


>>>What did ancient
America life look like before Christopher
Columbus set foot on the America Continent? Is
pre-Columbian culture as primitive as commonly
believed? Spring 2018, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
unveiled the landmark exhibition Golden
Kingdoms, Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient
Americas. >>>This exhibition
features over 300 works from 52 different lenders
in 12 different countries. The exhibition begins high
in the Andes mountains around about a 1000 BC and
we follow the development of gold working across the
Americas concluding in what is now Mexico in the
16th century. >>>Gold was the sacred
material used by Queens and Kings. Gold jewelry
and masks can transform a person into a higher
being, who has the power of God.>>>It’s about
transformation. You’re transforming yourself and
you are aligning yourself with powerful forces. >>>Big earrings were
reserved for nobilities. >>>When the Spaniards
arrived in the 16th century they had no
trouble recognizing members of the nobility
because they all had floppy earlobes. The most
remarkable was one that depicts a warrior wears a
crescent head dress, a crescent nose ornament, a
beautiful tiny little owl head necklace. Most of
these elements are removable.>>>Nose rings were also
popular in ancient times. Many jewelry patterns symbolize
fertility and abundance.>>>These would be
suspended from the septum of the nose. So they’re
made of silver and gold and silver seems to be
closely associated with women and the moon and
gold is closely associated with men and the sun. >>>In Ancient America,
gold wasn’t considered as valuable as jade, feather,
sacred shell or textiles. The feather work is far
more valuable than gold, made from precious bird
feathers. >>>Around 500 AD we have
the rise of the first Empire in the central Andes
and it’s an Empire known as the Wari Empire. These are
nine panels of what were originally 96 panels buried
on Peru’s South Coast.>>>The famous Mayan
people lived in Mexico and Central America from
250-950 CE. >>>The Maya Royal Crown
was made of a jade ornament that would have
been worn perpendicular to the forehead. This is a
royal scene, the center of the composition is a king
known by the name of Pakal and you can see that he is
wearing a jade royal crown as are the two figures
next to him here. These two figures are actually
his grandsons. The Maya rulers would let their own
blood as a pious act to speak about what they were
doing for the sustenance of the world to feed the
Earth. And we see the Pakal himself wears a jade
bar pendant. We also have the Red Queen. She was the
queen of King Pakal. Her funerary mask was made out
of malachite. >>>A “Cenote” is an
opening in a limestone cave filled with water,
and the Mayan people considered it to be an
opening to the underworld.>>>Works from all over
were found in the cenote. This jade bar pendant was
associated with the son of Pakal. Here we see
Kan Bahlam, which was his name, wearing a jade bar
pendant on a jade bar pendant.>>>Conquistadors,
soldiers and explorers from Europe, came to
conquer the Americas. They were allowed to rob locals
as long as they send 20% or one fifth back to the
Spanish Crown. >>>These are Mixtec gold
ornaments. Those tiny banners at the top have
the letter C and a crown. That meant that this gold
had been marked as part of the royal fifth. It was on
its way back to Spain but this ship sank and they
were only recovered in the late 1970s by an octopus
fisherman. >>>The Aztec empire was
highly successful before the Spanish arrived. The
population living in its capital was more than that
of London or Rome at that time. They were smart
negotiators, and asked other rulers to pay tax
tributes instead of fighting them in battle. >>>That this is the
world’s most beautiful tax document and it’s about
what the Aztecs required of the region’s they had
conquered. Little Feather at the top represent the
number 400 and then down below these are the
beautiful feather garments, feather shields, jade beads,
and then turquoise beads. There’s this great tradition of
writing in ancient Mesoamerica, but unfortunately very few of
these books have survived to the present day. Most
of them were burned as instruments of the devil
in the early colonial period. This wonderful manuscript
here is exquisitely painted on deerskin that was
prepared with a white gesso. This is a history about one of
the most important dynasties of the Mixtec culture.
This is a Labret. This is an ornament
that would be worn through the lower lip. The Aztecs called
their rulers Huey Tlatoani, or the great speakers.>>>This 16th century
painting documented what nobilities look like at
that time. >>>We see Don Francisco
and his sons are wearing shirts in this style of
traditional Andean garment, pre-Columbian
style nose ornaments and ear ornaments, but they’re
wearing European-style garments over the top but
made of silks probably from Asia. The arrival of
the Spaniards into the new world in the 16th century
spelled much destruction and much death. In some
parts of the Americas up to sixty to ninety percent
of the population died from the diseases that
were introduced by Europeans.>>>This painting is made
of feathers from exotic birds. It was a gift for the pope,
a thanks for his decision in 1537 that the indigenous
people were human beings.>>>This is actually the
earliest dated work of Christian art from the
Americas. >>>So often the written
history of the ancient Americas was very negative. They
justified the conquest as bringing civilization to
the barbarians. Thanks to new archaeological findings
and masterpieces from major museums in Latin America,
Europe and the United States, this exhibition casts new light
on these ancient civilizations and restores the glorious
history of its descendants.

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