Golden Kingdoms

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Golden Kingdoms

Golden Kingdoms

Golden
Kingdoms

Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas 

Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas 

Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas

A pendant in gold depicting a figure with human and jaguar attributes from Colombia’s Tolima region (1 BC–AD 700). Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República. A pendant in gold depicting a figure with human and jaguar attributes from Colombia’s Tolima region (1 BC–AD 700). Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

A pendant in gold depicting a figure with human and jaguar attributes from Colombia’s Tolima region (1 BC–AD 700). Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

A pendant in gold depicting a figure with human and jaguar attributes from Colombia’s Tolima region (1 BC–AD 700). Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

A pendant in gold depicting a figure with human and jaguar attributes from Colombia’s Tolima region (1 BC–AD 700). Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

“Golden Kingdoms is a bona fide blockbuster
of pre-Columbian bling."

“Golden Kingdoms is a bona fide blockbuster of pre-Columbian bling."

“Golden Kingdoms is a bona fide blockbuster of pre-Columbian bling."

The New York Times

The New York Times

The New York Times

Inlaid with turquoise and other precious materials, this Moche ear ornament
(AD 400–700) intricately depicts a winged runner. New York, The Metropolitan
Museum of Art.  

Inlaid with turquoise and other precious materials, this Moche ear ornament (AD 400–700) intricately depicts a winged runner. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Inlaid with turquoise and other precious materials, this Moche ear ornament (AD 400–700) intricately depicts a winged runner. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Continuing in the
Classical Tradition

Continuing in the
Classical Tradition

Continuing in the
Classical Tradition

In the ancient Americas, materials for luxury arts
were meant to provoke a strong response—sensually
and conceptually—to transport the wearer and beholders
to new realms. “This speaks to me on a personal level as
a designer and an artist,” says David Yurman. “The Met
was my temple in my early twenties when I was dating
my wife Sybil. She was at Hunter College and I drove
her to the city from Putnam Valley where we lived and
then went to the museum, getting to know the
jewelry. It was my foundation.”

 

David’s fascination with ancient jewelry later became
the catalyst to make historical forms contemporary—
an idea that began with the first Cable bracelet and
continues today. The fundamental role that the Met
played for David and Sybil, as well as Golden Kingdoms’
cutting-edge exploration of luxury, visual arts and
women in power inspired them to sponsor the
exhibition at the New York City institution.

In the ancient Americas, materials for luxury arts
were meant to provoke a strong response—sensually
and conceptually—to transport the wearer and
beholders to new realms. “This speaks to me on a
personal level as a designer and an artist,” says David Yurman.
“The Met was my temple in my early twenties when I
was dating my wife Sybil. She was at Hunter College
and I drove her to the city from Putnam Valley where
we lived and then went to the museum, getting to
know the jewelry. It was my foundation.”

 

David’s fascination with ancient jewelry later became
the catalyst to make historical forms contemporary—
an idea that began with the first Cable bracelet and
continues today. The fundamental role that the Met
played for David and Sybil, as well as Golden Kingdoms’
cutting-edge exploration of luxury, visual arts and
women in power inspired them to sponsor the
exhibition at the New York City institution.

In the ancient Americas, materials for luxury arts were meant to provoke a strong response—sensually and conceptually—to transport the wearer and beholders to new realms. “This speaks to me on a personal level as a designer and an artist,” says David Yurman. “The Met was my temple in my early twenties when I was dating my wife Sybil. She was at Hunter College and I drove her to the city from Putnam Valley where we lived and then went to the museum, getting to know the jewelry. It was my foundation.”

 

David’s fascination with ancient jewelry later became the catalyst to make historical forms contemporary—an idea that began with the first Cable bracelet and continues today. The fundamental role that the Met played for David and Sybil, as well as Golden Kingdoms’ cutting-edge exploration of luxury, visual arts and women in power inspired them to sponsor the exhibition at the New York City institution.

The Golden Road

The Golden Road

The Golden
Road

Spanning 2,600 years and 2,600 miles, this landmark
exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York City follows the journey of gold artistry from the
lands of the Incas to the lands of the Aztecs. With more
than 300 works—including newly excavated pieces and
masterpieces that have never left their home countries
until now—Golden Kingdoms is a stunning celebration of
pre-Columbian art. Yet, at its core, the show is about
much more than ancient relics. It explores the universal
concept of how, in an impermanent world, we anchor our
deepest beliefs by capturing them in physical form.

Spanning 2,600 years and 2,600 miles, this landmark
exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York City follows the journey of gold artistry from the
lands of the Incas to the lands of the Aztecs. With more
than 300 works—including newly excavated pieces and
masterpieces that have never left their home countries
until now—Golden Kingdoms is a stunning celebration of
pre-Columbian art. Yet, at its core, the show is about
much more than ancient relics. It explores the universal
concept of how, in an impermanent world, we anchor our
deepest beliefs by capturing them in physical form.

Spanning 2,600 years and 2,600 miles, this landmark exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City follows the journey of gold artistry from the lands of the Incas to the lands of the Aztecs. With more than 300 works—including newly excavated pieces and masterpieces that have never left their home countries until now—Golden Kingdoms is a stunning celebration of pre-Columbian art. Yet, at its core, the show is about much more than ancient relics. It explores the universal concept of how, in an impermanent world, we anchor our deepest beliefs by capturing them in physical form.

A rare example of Aztec gold-working, this serpent labret (AD 1300–1521) or lip pendant was cast with a movable tongue to symbolize the emperor’s eloquence. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A rare example of Aztec gold-working, this serpent labret (AD 1300–1521) or lip pendant was cast with a movable tongue to symbolize the emperor’s eloquence. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A rare example of Aztec gold-working, this serpent labret (AD 1300–1521) or lip pendant was cast with a movable tongue to symbolize the emperor’s eloquence. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“These exquisite objects were a primary means by which
ideas were exchanged across regions and through time."

“These exquisite objects were a primary means by which
ideas were exchanged across regions and through time."

“These exquisite objects were a primary means by which ideas were exchanged across regions and through time."

Joanne Pillsbury, curator

Joanne Pillsbury, curator

Joanne Pillsbury, curator

Found in a high-status tomb, a funerary mask (AD 900-1100) made from an alloy of
gold, silver and copper. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Found in a high-status tomb, a funerary mask (AD 900-1100) made from an alloy of gold, silver and copper. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Found in a high-status tomb, a funerary mask (AD 900-1100) made from an alloy of gold, silver and copper. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gifts from the Gods

Gifts from the Gods

Gifts from
the Gods

In the ancient Americas, precious metals were not used
for coins or weapons. They were inhabited by divine
power: gold was associated with the sun and
men, and silver with the moon and women. Gold-working was
likely first embraced in South America (around 2000 B.C.)
using repoussé, a technique where sheets of metals are
hammered from the back producing low-relief
ornamentation. Gold artistry then slowly spread
northward from the Andes to what is now Mexico.

 

At the beginning of the first millennium, pre-Columbian
metalsmiths mastered techniques to combine gold and
silver in a single piece, representing the union of
masculine and feminine. This fusion of materials
resonated with David Yurman, as mixed metals are a
cornerstone of his jewelry.

In the ancient Americas, precious metals were not used
for coins or weapons. They were inhabited by divine
power: gold was associated with the sun and
men, and silver with the moon and women. Gold-working was
likely first embraced in South America (around 2000 B.C.)
using repoussé, a technique where sheets of metals are
hammered from the back producing low-relief
ornamentation. Gold artistry then slowly spread
northward from the Andes to what is now Mexico.

 

At the beginning of the first millennium, pre-Columbian
metalsmiths mastered techniques to combine gold and
silver in a single piece, representing the union of
masculine and feminine. This fusion of materials
resonated with David Yurman, as mixed metals are a
cornerstone of his jewelry.

In the ancient Americas, precious metals were not used for coins or weapons. They were inhabited by divine power: gold was associated with the sun and men, and silver with the moon and women. Gold-working was likely first embraced in South America (around 2000 B.C.) using repoussé, a technique where sheets of metals are hammered from the back producing low-relief ornamentation. Gold artistry then slowly spread northward from the Andes to what is now Mexico.

 

At the beginning of the first millennium, pre-Columbian metalsmiths mastered techniques to combine gold and silver in a single piece, representing the union of masculine and feminine. This fusion of materials resonated with David Yurman, as mixed metals are a cornerstone of his jewelry.

Drawing of Italian architecture. Drawing of Italian architecture.

A chest ornament (AD 200-900) fashioned from a hammered gold sheet. Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

A chest ornament (AD 200-900) fashioned from a hammered gold sheet. Bogotá, Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

A chest ornament (AD 200-900) fashioned from a hammered gold sheet. Bogotá, Museo
del Oro, Banco de la República.

Powerful Women

Powerful Women

Powerful
Women

Another element of the exhibition that inspired David
Yurman is the role prominent women played in these
early societies—a very recent archaeological discovery.
Some of the most spectacular creations express the power
and importance of queens and priestesses, shining a new
light on gender in the ancient Americas. 

 

Along with their rich decoration, these labor-intensive
works were also steeped in symbolism that used the body
as its canvas. Jewelry that drew attention to the mouth
expressed the wearer’s eloquence. Elaborate ear
ornaments communicated noble status. When the
Spanish arrived in the Americas, they were able to
identify the ruling class by their elongated floppy ears
adorned with spectacular ornamentation.

Another element of the exhibition that inspired David
Yurman is the role prominent women played in these
early societies—a very recent archaeological discovery.
Some of the most spectacular creations express the power
and importance of queens and priestesses, shining a new
light on gender in the ancient Americas. 

 

Along with their rich decoration, these labor-intensive
works were also steeped in symbolism that used the body
as its canvas. Jewelry that drew attention to the mouth
expressed the wearer’s eloquence. Elaborate ear
ornaments communicated noble status. When the
Spanish arrived in the Americas, they were able to
identify the ruling class by their elongated floppy ears
adorned with spectacular ornamentation.

Another element of the exhibition that inspired David Yurman is the role prominent women played in these early societies—a very recent archaeological discovery. Some of the most spectacular creations express the power and importance of queens and priestesses, shining a new light on gender in the ancient Americas. 

 

Along with their rich decoration, these labor-intensive works were also steeped in symbolism that used the body as its canvas. Jewelry that drew attention to the mouth expressed the wearer’s eloquence. Elaborate ear ornaments communicated noble status. When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, they were able to identify the ruling class by their elongated floppy ears adorned with spectacular ornamentation.

A ceremonial pre-Incan knife (AD 900–1100) representing a golden deity with
turquoise stones in his headdress. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A ceremonial pre-Incan knife (AD 900–1100) representing a golden deity with turquoise stones in his headdress. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A ceremonial pre-Incan knife (AD 900–1100) representing a golden deity with turquoise stones in his headdress. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Rare Legacy

A Rare Legacy

A Rare
Legacy

“These works were among the most important of their time and their survival is
exceptionally rare,” says Joanne Pillsbury, the exhibition’s curator. “Gold—that
most mutable of materials—was quickly melted down at the time of the conquest
and beyond,” she explains.

 

Fortunately, some breathtaking examples of pre-Colombian virtuosity remain, such
as a plundered set of gold ornaments recovered from a Spanish
shipwreck—provoking a reaction that’s the same today as it was in the past. When
seeing Aztec emperor Montezuma’s treasures, Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer
wrote, “I have never in all my days seen anything that so delighted my heart as
these things. For I saw amazing objects and I marveled at the subtle ingenuity of
the men in these distant lands.”

“These works were among the most important of their time and their survival is 
exceptionally rare,” says Joanne Pillsbury, the exhibition’s curator. “Gold—that 
most mutable of materials—was quickly melted down at the time of the conquest 
and beyond,” she explains.

 

Fortunately, some breathtaking examples of pre-Colombian virtuosity remain, such 
as a plundered set of gold ornaments recovered from a Spanish
shipwreck—provoking a reaction that’s the same today as it was in the past. When 
seeing Aztec emperor Montezuma’s treasures, Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer
wrote, “I have never in all my days seen anything that so delighted my heart as 
these things. For I saw amazing objects and I marveled at the subtle ingenuity of
the men in these distant lands.”

“These works were among the most important of their time and their survival is exceptionally rare,” says Joanne Pillsbury, the exhibition’s curator. “Gold—that most mutable of materials—was quickly melted down at the time of the conquest and beyond,” she explains.

 

Fortunately, some breathtaking examples of pre-Colombian virtuosity remain, such as a plundered set of gold ornaments recovered from a Spanish shipwreck—provoking a reaction that’s the same today as it was in the past. When seeing Aztec emperor Montezuma’s treasures, Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer wrote, “I have never in all my days seen anything that so delighted my heart as these things. For I saw amazing objects and I marveled at the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands.”

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