A rare La Tolita gold and platinum mask

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Lot 23*
A rare La Tolita gold and platinum mask

Sold for £ 160,650 (US$ 224,144) inc. premium

Antiquities

14 Jul 2004, 18:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

A rare La Tolita gold and platinum mask
Tumaco region, circa 300 B.C. – A.D. 800
Finely hammered to form a human face, a layer of platinum covering the interior, repoussé decorated in deep relief, the features stylised, with high cheek-bones and flattened upper lip, the narrow mouth slightly up-turned at the corners, with beak-like nose, the flared nostrils pierced for turquoise beads attached by thin wire, the bulbous elliptical eyes similarly pierced with a single turquoise bead remaining in one eye also attached by wire, with angular eyebrows, the narrow rounded forehead and curving chin showing traces of folds or “tucks” for increased curvature, the two small ears pierced six times for ornaments, a fluted earring remaining in the left ear, tiny perforations at the top of the ear and at the corners of the chin for attachment, 5½in. (14cm.) high, mounted

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Ex American private collection, acquired approximately 25 years ago from another American private collector, who it is believed had owned the mask since the 1950's

    Published:
    Sotheby's New York, 1997a, pp.30-31, lot 39

    Literature:
    For two other human masks from La Tolita in the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador, one in Quito and another in Guayaquil, see L'Or des Dieux, cover illus. and Deletaille and Deletaille 1968, fig.364, for the larger mask in Quito which has platinum eyes.

    La Tolita goldwork marks the beginning of a long tradition of fine metalwork from this important religious and political centre of ancient northwestern Ecuador. This may be a unique surviving example of La Tolita metalwork where platinum was used for the interior surface. Unable to heat platinum to its melting point, ancient Tolita goldsmiths bound the tiny grains by hammering and annealing them with gold. Platinum served to strengthen a metal sheet, as well as add variety of colour and refinement to an object.
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Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £10,000 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £10,000 up to and including £450,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £450,000 up to and including £4,500,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £4,500,000.

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