Robert & Carolyn Nelson Collection
David Bernstein Fine Art, New York, NY
The Quimbaya civilization (/kɪmbaɪa/) was a Pre-Columbian culture of Colombia, noted for spectacular gold work characterized by technical accuracy and detailed designs. The majority of the gold work is made in tumbaga alloy, with 30% copper, which imparts beautiful color tonalities to the pieces.
The Quimbaya inhabited the areas corresponding to the modern departments of Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda in Colombia, around the valley of the Cauca River. There is no clear data about when they were initially established; the current best guess is around the 1st century BCE.
The Quimbaya people reached their zenith during the 4th to 7th century CE period known as The Quimbaya Classic. The culture’s the most emblematic piece of this culture comes from this period, a form of poporo known as the Poporo Quimbaya, on exhibit at the Bogotá Gold Museum. The most frequent designs in the art pieces are anthropomorphic, depicting men and women sitting with closed eyes and placid expression, as well as many fruits and forms of poporos.
Most of the retrieved items are part of funeral offerings, found in the inside of sarcophagi made of hollow trunks. The gold represented a sacred metal and the passport for the afterlife. Around the 10th century the Quimbaya culture disappeared entirely due to unknown circumstances; studies of the archeological items point to an advanced cultural development and the political structure of a cacicazgo with separated groups dedicated to pottery, religion, trade, gold work and war.