civilizations of the Americas produced an
incredible array of surviving art, crafted
in painted and fired clay, and carved of
stone, jade, or other materials. Most of
the aesthetically superior museum objects
functioned as elite funerary offerings to
accompany the deceased on the journey to
an underworld afterlife.
Jay Kislak's initial collecting passion was for rare books
and manuscripts in the field of Americana, especially early
exploration and discovery. This led to the purchase of a
1494 Basel printing of the Columbus letter, with its woodcut
illustrations of the West Indies. Unable to go back further
in the primary printed history of the New World, Mr. Kislak
expanded his collecting to the artifacts produced by the
indigenous civilizations before Columbus. He was intrigued
that the Maya, in particular, recorded their history not
only in screenfold books and stone inscriptions but even
in painted hieroglyphic texts on pottery.
He acquired his first pre-Columbian art pieces at a New
York Sotheby's auction in May 1980.
Jean Kislak had independently collected some pre-Columbian
art works, and they have since made many discriminating