Sotheby’s Brings Pre-Columbian Antiquities to Market

Sotheby’s brings Pre-Columbian antiquities to market at its “Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas” auction in New York, Monday, May 15 at 2pm.

The auction includes Olmec, Mayan, Aztec, Colima, Izapan, Nayarit, Veracruz, anda Zapotec carvings from Mexico. It also includes a Sicán gold beaker from the north Peruvian coast, and a very old Valdivian sculpture (circa 2300-2000 BC) from Chile.

The most important item is a Postclassic Aztec stone figure of the ripe maize Goddess Chicomecoatl. It was originally part of the collection of Carl Uhde, the most important collection of Pre-Columbian art outside of Mexico.

Chicomecoatl is holding corn. Her headdress indicates divinity. It shows the radiant tassles of ripe corn.

It’s interesting to note that in Aztec culture, divine power was represented not in the body, but in costume. The bigger the headdress, the bigger the power. The figure from 1330-1521 AD is estimated to sell for $150,000-$200,000.

Looking at these objects, one can’t help but notice occasional similiarities with Polynesian art. The South American – Polynesian connection seems obvious, though it remains controversial. DNA studies in humans and in sweet potatoes confirm a link. It’s not clear who visited who, or whether the visit was a one-way voyage or a round trip.

Auction items are on view at Sotheby’s in the Upper East Side from Friday, May 5 through Sunday, May 14.

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