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Crown of the Andes contains the Atahualpa Emerald

The Crown of the Andes is a votive crown from a statue of the Virgin at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption in Popayán, Colombia.

One of the most important surviving examples of colonial Spanish American goldwork, a piece used for centuries in Holy Week ceremonies, is on display in Gallery 357 at the Met Fifth Avenue.

The Crown of the Andes holds the Atahualpa Emerald

Colombia is famous for emeralds. Pre-Columbian artisans were famous for their gold work.

The Spanish conquest of what is now Colombia took place between 1499 and 1538. The conquistadores melted down Inca jewelry to make new pieces.

Legend says that the crown was made in the late 1500s. Modern scholarship suggests the crown was made in parts roughly between 1660 and 1770.

The crown contains almost 450 emeralds. The largest is known as the “Atahualpa Emerald.” Legend says it was taken from the last Inca Emperor Atahualpa (1497-1533). He ruled from what is now Quito, Ecuador.

The crown was long used in Holy Week (Semana Santa) processions in Popayán. In 1936 it was sold to an American and changed hands several times. The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the crown in 2015.

The Crown of the Andes is considered to be one of the most important surviving examples of colonial Spanish American goldwork.

Who knew that such an important Latin American treasure would be right here in New York City? I think I’ll go pay my respects during Semana Santa, and probably take the kids to show them their heritage.

For more information, visit www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metcollects/crown-of-the-andes

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