The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork, 1530–1830

September 29–December 12, 2004

New Identities

Beginning with an introduction to the culture of the Inca Empire, the exhibition shows how early colonial artists integrated aspects of their native traditions with European elements to forge a new artistic vocabulary and to explore new Andean identities. An eighteenth-century portrait of the cacique don Marcos Chiguan Topa (Museo Inka, Cusco) illustrates how members of the indigenous elite adapted European and Inca symbols of status and identity to reinforce their authority. Dressed in seventeenth-century European clothing, the subject wears on his forehead a mascaypacha, the scarlet fringe of Inca royalty that became the emblem of native viceregal nobility. At the same time, the painting displays the coat of arms granted to his ancestors by Charles V, as well as the arms of Spain. Garments in the Andes conveyed complex meanings, both in their designs and in the ways in which they were made. The negotiation of personal identity and the integration of Andean heritage within the viceregal society played out in the public sphere, where dress and identity merged. The exhibition will present some of the early transitional garments made in finely woven tapestry, that speak to the complexities of colonial life, such as Inca-style tunics that integrate European heraldic motifs and highly charged Inca symbols of kingship.