Tunic Fragment, Camelid hair, cotton, Wari

Tunic Fragment

7th–9th century
Camelid hair, cotton
H. 12 7/8 x W. 21in. (32.7 x 53.3cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
Wari tunics are among the most elaborate textiles of ancient America. The colorful designs are grid-based, with vertical rows of squares frequently separated with monochrome bands. Compositions are highly geometric and often illegible at first glance. Figures are distorted, compressed, expanded, and rotated until they reach the limits of abstraction. However, the woven figures ultimately refer to humans and animals known in the Wari iconographic corpus, such as staff-bearers, frontal and profile human heads, felines, and raptorial birds. This fragment shows four profile staff-bearing figures. Light brown figures with split eyes have a human aspect and the fangs of beings endowed with supernatural power. Green figures have the spots, muzzles, and claws of felines. All figures have wings, belts ending with stylized flowers, and appear as if they were running or knealing.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1953]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1953, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 193.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas/The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.

Frame, Mary. Andean Four-Cornered Hats: Ancient Volumes: From the Collection of Arthur M. Bullowa. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990, p. 6, fig. 3.