Pre-Columbian Gold Drives American Indian And Tribal Art Auction

Haida Raven Rattle Sells For $18,750

August 9, 2019

A surge in demand for pre-Columbian art made of solid gold lifted Heritage Auctions’ Ethnographic Art: American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Auction to $1,004,553 on June 25 in Dallas, Texas. A large gold pendant, from the Central American Diquis culture, more than doubled its high pre-auction estimate when it drew $50,000 to claim top-lot honors in the sale.
“The Diquis was a pre-Columbian culture in what is now Costa Rica that produced some extraordinary gold art,” said Heritage Auctions senior ethnographic art specialist Delia Sullivan. “The popularity of the Diquis lots in this auction are a reflection of the upward trajectory in the quality of pre-Columbian and Ethnographic lots Heritage offers.”
The Diquis culture flourished from A.D. 700 to 1530. The rare pendant, from a private U.S. collection, can be traced back to Enrique Vargas Alfaro, who sold high quality pre-Columbian art to prestigious collections and appeared in such museums as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Denver Art Museum and the William C. Carlos Museum.
Two other Diquis gold lots produced returns among the top 10 results in the auction, when a superb Diquis gold pendant and a Diquis gold figure each brought $23,750. The tumbaga pendant portrays a dancing cacique, or shaman, holding a large arch of two double-headed serpents, while the gold figure depicts a man in a semi-seated position holding a staff with bird head finial in his left hand and a staff with celt in his right.
An important Olmec mask, from the collection of Robert and Carolyn Nelson, realized $35,000. The life-sized mask comes from the earliest known major civilization in Mesoamerica in the region that covers the modern states of Veracruz and Tabasco bordering the far eastern coast of Mexico.
Multiple collectors made bids for a Tlingit Chilkat blanket until it realized $35,000. Dated to about 1890, the blanket measures 68 inches wide, excluding its fringe, and is created from mountain goat hair, cedar bark and analine dyes. Chilkat is a traditional style of weaving by the Tlingit and other people in the Pacific Northwest. A Mezcala figure sold for $18,750; a Plateau beaded wool horse mask, $15,000; and a rare Chavin blue stone figure went for $15,000.
Heritage Auctions’ next Ethnographic Art: American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal auction is scheduled for Nov. 22.
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