Exhibitions/ Art Object

Woman's Wedding Mantle (Lliclla) with Interlace and Tocapu Design

late 16th–early 17th century
Made in Peru
Tapestry weave, cotton warp and camelid weft
Overall: 50 1/2 x 45 1/2in. (128.3 x 115.6cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1908
Accession Number:
Not on view
In Peru traditional attire for Inca noblewomen included a rectangular dress and a shoulder mantle that wrapped around the body. The mantle, or lliclla, was woven with the finest materials, including silk-like yarn spun from the fleece of the native alpaca. During the colonial era, these mantles were worn as wedding garments, notably for marriages between Spanish administrators and Inca noblewomen that were undertaken to form strategic political alliances. This mantle, woven for a woman of Inca descent, incorporates designs from both worlds: the border of geometric tocapu, symbolic of Inca rank and privilege, and a field of an interlacing lattice motif, especially popular in silk brocades favored by the Spanish elite.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in Peru, traditional attire for women of Inca nobility included a rectangular dress and a shoulder mantle that wrapped around the body and was held in place with silver pins. The mantle, or lliclla, was woven with the finest available materials, including silken hairs from the native alpaca, in a unique double-sided tapestry weave referred to as cumbi. Such lliclla were traditionally decorated with compartmentalized geometric designs called tocapu, which conveyed the noble status of the mantle’s owner; indeed, the use of cumbi and tocapu was restricted to the family of the Inca king. (Footnote 1) During the colonial era, but particularly immediately after the Conquest, marriages between Spanish administrators and Inca noblewomen (known as nustas) were formed as part of a strategic alliance aimed at legitimizing Spanish occupation of native domains, since land rights in the Andes followed matrilineal descent. As the wives of high-ranking Spanish men, nustas were able to continue to dress in native-style garments; however, instead of the strict geometric aesthetic of the Inca, the designs of their colonial-era lliclla and other traditional forms of dress often incorporated elements of the Spanish decorative arts vocabulary. The tripartite, horizontal orientation of this wedding lliclla follows Inca tradition, but the motifs in the two pampa (ground sections) above and below the center field contain a Spanish pattern of interlacing lattice, seen in a wide variety of colonial textiles, furniture, and metalwork beginning in the sixteenth century (cat. 18). The broad center band, in contrast, contains somewhat realistic designs of birds, which were traditionally associated with Inca queens (although Inca weavers generally would not have depicted them so literally). While the geometric tocapu are certainly of Inca origin, the manner in which they are used here ? to outline the four borders as a decorative element ? is unique to the colonial era. Thus, although the tocapu likely retained their symbolic meaning in this special garment, emphasizing the Inca lineage of the woman who wore it, their juxtaposition with Spanish motifs reflects the complexities of the Andean colonial milieu. (Footnote 2)

1. For cumbi, see Rowe, “Standardization in Inca Tapestry Tunics,” pp. 239 ? 64, and Phipps, “Garments and Identity in the Colonial Andes,” pp. 16 ? 39.

2. The use of single interlocking joins, the presence of chained warp selvages on the beginning end, and the cut-and-reentered finishing of the upper warp end of the mantle are typical Andean techniques derived from Inca weaving traditions. For a full technical description, see Elena Phipps in Phipps et al., Colonial Andes, pp. 204 ? 6, no. 46.
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