Mantle, 16th–17th century Medium: warp: cotton; weft: silk, silver strips wrapped around linen core Technique: tapestry weave, interlocked warps and wefts Label: silk and metallic thread tapestry. Gift of John Pierpont Morgan. 1902-1-782.
What is this?
Mantle decorated with series of broad and narrow horizontal bands in reds, pale tan, cream, pale yellow, blues, silver. A broad band across the middle is made up of ten narrow bands, with adjacent rectangles containing Inca geometric patterns and some adapted Tiahuanaco eye forms, separated throughout and edged top and bottom with variety of guard stripes. Above and below this broad central band are slightly narrower pink bands, edged top and bottom with small stepped scallops and filled with close-set mermaids and bird, fish, animal and floral motives, seemingly scattered, but actually set symmetrically on either side of two central vases set one above the other in each band and filled with flowers and fruit. Two narrow bands with attendant varied guard stripes border the mantle at top and bottom; the inner red band is similar to the bands in the center of the mantle; the outer cream-grounded band contains a series of bird, fish, and floral motives symmetrically spaced on either side of the central axis of the mantle; pink guard stripes terminate the mantle at top and bottom.
Why is this in our collection?
This beautiful cloth woven of silk and silver threads is a woman’s shoulder mantle, called a lliclla in the Quechua language of the Inca empire, made during the colonial period of Peru. A perfect blend of the cross-cultural elements of the 16th -17th century era of global trade, the Chinese silk and Spanish silver threads are woven with Inca techniques and design to make the quintessential Andean garment. The abstract designs of geometric squares, tocapu rendered in modulated colors form a cascade that moves from left to right. Each small square is its own universe—some scholars believe that they represent a language. This from a culture that had no written language. Though we do... more