The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Not on view
Colorful bird feathers were highly prized in ancient Peru, and textiles covered with them are among the most spectacular works of the Precolumbian world. These two miniature dresses are part of a large group of similar garments reportedly found in an offering at Ullujaya, in the lower Ica Valley in southern Peru. Their manufacture follows the conventions used for full-sized male and female garments but at one-fourth to one-third the size. The women’s dresses in the group have a checkerboard design on the front, as seen here. The horizontal openings for the head and arms along the top seam are sewn closed. The function of these miniature garments in ancient Andean cultures is unclear; they may have served as symbolic substitutions in votive contexts.
The feathers were tied onto long strings, which in turn were sewn onto plain cotton cloth. Feather tips were often clipped to create sharp outlines, as on these examples. An unexpected patchwork of exotic materials, these diminutive dresses have high-wattage impact.
[Louis Slavitz, New York, until 1957]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1978