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Fragment (Peru)

This is a Fragment. It is dated 600–300 BC and we acquired it in 1944. Its medium is wool embroidery, cotton foundation and its technique is embroidered in stem stitch on plain weave foundation. It is a part of the Textiles department.

This border fragment, formerly part of a large mantle, is one of a group of textiles found in a necropolis on the Paracas peninsula in southern Peru. Over four hundred such burials were found in the 1920s by Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, including mummy bundles wrapped in layer upon layer of beautifully embroidered textiles and garments, preserved by the arid desert climate. The meticulous stitching, complex iconographic program, and incredible preservation of sets of garments all embroidered in a similar style has made the Paracas embroideries among the most prized textiles known.
Here, the embroiderer utilized her needle and thread to create an entire surface covered with complex symbolic and religious designs. The main figure depicted is the large-eyed, grinning being whose orientation has been described as either standing with his head sideways and backwards, in an ecstatic pose, or else ‘floating,’ flying or falling. Interpreted as a shaman or deity figure, streamers exude from his head and body, and a smaller version of the figure is represented in his belly. Every space is filled with energy and movement, with small animal figures filling the interstices around the rayed body.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Preserved in Paracas.

It is credited Museum purchase through gift of Mrs. John Innes Kane.

  • Border (Portugal)
  • silk embroidery on linen foundation.
  • Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.
  • 1902-1-904

Its dimensions are

H x W: 23.2 x 50.2 cm (9 1/8 x 19 3/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Fragment (Peru); wool embroidery, cotton foundation; H x W: 23.2 x 50.2 cm (9 1/8 x 19 3/4 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Mrs. John Innes Kane; 1944-89-1

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Fragment (Peru) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=28 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>