Textile Fragment

Chavín artist(s)

Not on view

Cloth making began in the Andes at least as early as the third millennium B.C. and remained a medium of artistic expression and carrier of important social, political, and religious information for millennia, preceding ceramics by more than a thousand years in Peru. Many different textile structures were developed; indeed, Peru was home to one of the broadest ranges of textile structures known in the ancient world. Designs could be woven into the fabric, or embroidered or painted onto a base fabric, as is the case here. Providing a portable and/or wearable surface for the depiction of complex imagery, textiles are thought to have facilitated the spread of Chavín imagery from the north, where it originated, to the southern Peruvian coast, where this fragment is said to have been found. The motifs and painting style closely resemble those of stone carvings at the site of Chavín de Huantar, a site in the northern highlands and the center of an important religious tradition in the first millennium BCE. The figure's clawed hands and feet, serpent hair, and serpent belt relate it to the Staff God, one of the main deities worshipped at Chavín de Huantar. Here a fanged, supernatural figure with raptor claws encircled by red octagons was painted with a red iron pigment in the 4th or 3rd century BCE (Burger et al., 2023). These red serpentine forms terminate in profile heads, one upside down in a mirror image, that together form a new head with a fanged mouth. The composition would have been repeated across the textile in an infinity pattern, that is, a theoretically boundless continuation of imagery, a suite of compositional conventions that would endure for another thousand years.

References and Further Reading

Bird, J. B. Peruvian Paintings by Unknown Artists: 800 BC to 1700 AD. Center for Inter-American Relations, New York, 1973.

Conklin, William J. “The Culture of Chavin Textiles.” In Chavin: Art, Architecture and Culture. edited by William J Conklin and Jeffrey Quilter, pp. 261-278. Los Angeles, CA: Cotsen Institute of Archeology at UCLA, 61, 2008.

Cordy-Collins, Alana. “Cotton and the Staff God: Analysis of an Ancient Chavín Textile.” In The Junius B. Bird Pre-Columbian Textile Conference, edited by A. P. Rowe, E. P. Benson, and A.-L. Schaffer, pp. 51-60. Washington, D.C: The Textile Museum and Dumbarton Oaks, 1979.

Textile Fragment, Chavín artist(s), Cotton, refined iron earth pigments, Chavin

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