The art of casting elaborate designs in gold had emerged in Panama by the middle of the first millennium a.d.; regional schools excelled in the techniques of cast and beaten gold. Gold became the primary prestige material in this region, and high-status individuals wore numerous ornaments in this material, which were later placed in quantity in their burials.
One of the most distinctive regional styles of Panama is that of the Conte group. In the Two Deer Heads pendant, what may initially appear as merely decorative elaboration above the deer heads is in fact an artful stylization—a pair of outward-facing profile heads of an important deity, a crested saurian. The long, many-toothed snout of the crocodile is topped by a notched “crest” that alludes to the skin texture of the crocodile and other lizards. The eyes of all four heads were once inset with bone, amber, or hardstone. The pendant may have had a talismanic function, invoking saurian or other animal spirits that were believed to have a special protective relationship to the wearer.
Private collection, Florida, by 1957;
Mr. Henry Weinstock, New York, 1957 to 1979;
Malcolm G. Delacorte, New York, 1979;
Dr. Nadine B. Castro, New York, 1979;
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1979.