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Masters of Pre-Columbian Art at Royal Museums of Art
Head of a king from Palenque Mexico, region of the Usumacinta River. Recent Classic Maya civilization, 600-800 A.D. Stucco, traces of red and blue pigments 32 x 20 cm.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM.- The Royal Museums of Art and History present Masters of Pre-Columbian Art - The collection of Dora and Paul Janssen, on view through April 29, 2007. The Janssen collection is known worldwide. It was started in the 70s, and has become one of the most beautiful current private collections of pre-Columbian art. Dora Janssen regularly lends pieces, but this is the first time the public, in Belgium, will be able to discover the whole collection. With over 350 exceptional works from the American continent – stone and terracotta statues, masks and gold artefacts, materials and creations in colourful feathers, made by artists from the Olmeca, Maya, Inca, Aztec and other civilizations – it retraces 3000 years of pre-Colombian history, from 1500 B.C. until 1533 A.D., the year in which the powerful Inca Empire fell. The Royal Museums of Art and History (Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire) have integrated into this presentation some fifty major pre-Colombian pieces from their own collections.

The South American civilizations developed mainly along the Andes cordillera. This backbone that crosses the sub-continent from the North to the South witnessed the development of a variety of cultures, each contributing to pre-Columbian art. The jewellery is one of the major aspects of this exhibition. Rarely have so many precious costumes and fineries been brought together: Mixteca jewels, fantasy animals from Costa Rica and Panama, pendants, masks and miniatures from Colombia, ornaments from Peru…all demonstrate the know-how and creative spirit of the American jewellers. But vases, statues or materials remind us that jewellery was not the only means of artistic _expression, and the collector couple was intelligent not to limit their approach of the pre-Colombian world to this sole aspect of America. Amulets sculpted in ivory by the artists of the Arctic, pipes bearing the Hopewell effigy from the East and the statuettes and painted vases fr om the Southwest illustrate North America.

Meso-America, that groups together the major civilizations of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, includes the works from all the periods since the Pre-Classic (1500 B.C.) up to the end of the Post-Classic period (1521, the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan). The exceptional Olmeca masks, with their enigmatic expressions, introduce this panorama of civilizations. The figurines from Michoacan and Chupicuaro, the statuettes from Nayarit, Colima and Jalisco, the monumental works from Veracruz, the onyx Aztec recipients… this variety of objects illustrates the skill in all these forms of artistic _expression. The Maya artefacts: jade plates decorated with divinities in bas-relief, vases painted with elaborate decors, a large stele on which Lady Alligator appears, the realistic statuettes from the island of Jaïna, are proof of what was probably the most advanced civilization on the American continent.

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