About UsCollectionsResearchPublic ProgramsExhibitionsThe Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress

Jay I. Kislak FoundationPre-Columbian Collections

Mesoamerica Olmec Maya Mexican Highlands West Indies Central & South America 

Click on a civilization name above to view examples from the collection.

Kislak Pre-Columbian Collections

Indigenous 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 purchases together.

Click on a civilization name above to view examples from the collection.

About Us | Collections | Research | Education | Exhibitions | Library of Congress | Contact Us