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Pre-Columbian Gold, Silver and Jade

DATES December 02, 1945 through February 17, 1946
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  • August 29, 1944 AMERICAN PEWTER
    Exhibition date extended through November 4, 1945
    Outstanding examples selected from the John W. Poole Collection recently purchased by the Museum, and additional pieces received as gifts from other sources. This exhibition, based on design and form, emphasizes the intrinsic beauty of early American pewter and illustrates its extensive use in the everyday life of America during the 18th and 19th centuries.

    October 5 - December 10, 1945
    An exhibition of about 60 lithographs and engravings depicting the days of the flatboats, steamboats, riverpilots, and midnight races, plantations and luxury “showboats” of the Mississippi before and after the Civil War. The greater portion of the lithographs were issued by Currier and Ives and other American lithographic houses which flourished in the 19th century. The majority of the prints have been lent through the courtesy of Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.

    November 2 - November 25, 1945
    An exhibition of 61 paintings and sculptures, which originated at the Albany Institute of History and Art, and is now being circulated by The American Federation of Arts. A group of portraits of distinguished Negro citizens will be shown with this exhibition.

    November 8, 1945--January 1, 1946
    European and American landscape painting, with loans from many museums and private collections (about 70 canvases), showing the development of both the philosophical and visual points of view towards landscape from the early fourteenth century to the present. There will be a detailed and illustrated catalogue. In connection with this large exhibition, the Museum is planning two smaller shows which will be on view at the same time: landscape water colors from the Museum collection and a group of unusual landscape photographs.

    From the Museum’s Print Collection
    December 14--January 6, 1946
    A special Christmas exhibition of Children’s Portraits by 19th and 20th century artists, from the Museum’s Print Collection.

    December 20 - closing date indefinite
    An exhibition of rare examples from the Museum’s famous Pre-Columbian collection of gold, silver and jade, representing Central and South America, especially Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Peru. A few items will be borrowed from private collectors.

    January 4, 1946
    Plans are being made to re-hang all painting galleries. European and American paintings, including Homer and Sargent water colors, which have been in storage for the duration, will be placed on permanent exhibition.

    January 15 - March 30, 1946
    A three-dimensional history of textiles. The inventions and developments in all phases of textile arts and techniques, from the earliest fibers, dyes and looms to the present, will be illustrated by maps, models and materials. In connection with the exhibition there will be lectures by leading authorities on such phases of the fabric arts as the development of historical and synthetic fibers, printing and finishing of materials, and the technological skills in the field. These lectures will be for the professional public and admission will be by invitation only.

    April 17 - May 26, 1946
    In keeping with established precedent, artists residing or teaching in Brooklyn will be invited to submit works in oil, water color, black and white and sculpture for selection by a jury.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1942 - 1946. 07-09/1945, 051-2.
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  • December 21, 1945 The Brooklyn Museum is fortunate in having a comprehensive collection of Pre-Columbian gold and silver which, together with jades, will be on view in a special exhibition from December 20, 1945 through February 17, 1946. Examples of the superlative gold work of the Quimbaya is illustrated by a flask which has a standing female figure on one side and a male figure on the other. Among the ornaments of the Peruvian nobility are two gold headbands with an all-over design of birds, and a pair of large ear plugs showing the Sky God beneath the canopy. A rare jade and shell necklace from the Mayas has a large central medallion in the form of a fish. The large gold breastplates of Cocle, Panama, are about the most handsome in the New World; one in the Brooklyn Museum Collection has rich repousse ornament of human and animal figures. The variety of amulets from Costa Rica in jade and gold is well represented in this exhibition. A striking piece is a realistic scorpion which is one of the many types of animals displayed.

    The wealth of gold in the New World, the skill with which it was worked into ornaments and utensils has captivated Europeans since the discovery of America. This was true not only of Mexico but of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Spaniards looked upon this metalwork as exchange but the Indians prized it as adornment. A warrior chief or nobleman in the aristocratic society of Colombia wore rich ornaments as a sign of rank: earrings, nose rings, necklaces and breastplates. In Costa Rica (The Rich Coast), so named by Columbus because of the abundance of gold he saw there, the variety of amulets was great, realistic jaguars, harpy eagles, bats, etc., as well as human figures or gods in human form.

    Mantles were fastened with large, handsome pins, and flat silver fish or birds were often sewed to Peruvian dresses. Tweezers, antedating razors were made in various shapes and sizes. Little spoons for removing wax from the ears were fashioned in gold, silver or bronze. In elaborate burials in Peru, flat, rather stylized masks of gold or silver were placed over mummy bundles. Much of this material, as well as metal cups, flasks and bowls, was found in deep graves, for it was the custom of many of these ancient peoples to bury with their dead such treasure, together with painted pottery and fine weavings.

    To the Mexicans and Mayas jade was more valuable than gold or silver, having symbolic meaning and therapeutic qualities. When Moctezuma promised the Spaniards even more precious gifts than the gold he had already presented, he was speaking of jade. Noblemen of Mexico and Costa Rica wore jade ornaments as a sign of rank. Fine tools such as celts and axes, were made of the beautiful stone. This was the choicest possession of the Aztecs but it was only green stone to the Europeans.

    This exhibit of Pre-Columbian metalwork and jade carving, from Mexico to Peru, will illustrate more than the technical achievement. It will reveal much of the life of the high civilization which flourished for centuries before the Spanish Conquest.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1942 - 1946. 10-12/1945, 092-3.
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