This small tapestry-woven tunic features a checkerboard pattern with a red V-shaped yoke. Although the design follows the conventions of full-sized garments thought to be associated with the Inca military, its scale suggests that it was destined to adorn a votive figure, a custom practiced in both Inca and colonial Spanish contexts. According to the Spanish chronicler Juan de Betanzos, the Inca dressed certain sacred statues, sometimes the size of a child, in finely woven garments. Miniature checkerboard tunics, smaller than the present example, have been found with small gold, silver, and shell figurines as part of capac hucha or “ritual obligation” offerings, a type of ritual practice designed to extend and unite the vast landscape of the Inca Empire.
Despite its smaller scale, this garment includes all of the fine detailing of its full-size counterparts. The checkerboard design is on front and back, inside and out, with meticulously embroidered finished edges. Woven as a single panel with single-interlocking joins, the neck slit was held closed by a temporary weft yarn that was removed after the weaving was complete. Once the finished weaving was cut from the loom, all seams and selvage edges were completely covered with fine double-faced embroidery. The seams were concealed with a precisely repeated series of multicolored bands of different widths. As with the full-size versions, along the bottom, just above that embroidered edge, a discreetly proportioned zigzag was created with similarly colored yarns.
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Title:Votive Checkerboard Tunic
Geography:Argentina, Peru, or Bolivia
Dimensions:H. 20 5/8 × W. 16 1/2 in. (52.4 × 41.9 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Fletcher Fund, Claudia Quentin Gift, and Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 2018
[Merrin Gallery, New York, until 1988]; private collection, New York, 1988–2018
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas," February 26–May 28, 2018.
Rowe, Ann P. "Technical Features of Inca Tapestry Tunics." Textile Museum Journal vol. 17 (1978), pp. 5–28.
Cobo, Bernabé. History of the Inca Empire: An Account of the Indians' Customs and Their Origin, Together with a Treatise on Inca Legends, History, and Social Institutions, edited by Roland Hamilton. Austin, 1979 (translation).
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Rowe, Ann P. "Inca Weaving and Costume." Textile Museum Journal vol. 34/35 (1997).
Dean, Carolyn. Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ : Corpus Christi in Colonial Cusco, Peru. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999.
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Pillsbury, Joanne. "Inka Unku: Strategy and Design in Colonial Peru." In Cleveland Studies in the History of Art. Vol. vol. 7. 2002, pp. 68–103.
Phipps, Elena. "Man’s tunic (uncu) with checkerboard design." In The Colonial Andes: Tapestry and Silverwork, 1530–1830. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 140–43.
Phipps, Elena. "Miniature tunic (uncu) with checkerboard design." In The Colonial Andes: Tapestry and Silverwork, 1530–1830. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 140–43.
Pillsbury, Joanne. "Inka-Colonial Tunics: A Case Study of the Bandelier Set." In Andean textile traditions: papers from the 2001 Mayer Center Symposium at the Denver Art Museum, edited by Margaret Young-Sánchez, and Fronia W. Simpson. Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2006, pp. 120–68.
Abal de Russo, Clara M. Arte textil incaico en ofrendatorios de la alta cordillera andina: Aconcagua, Llullaillaco, Chuscha. Buenos Aires: Fundación CEPPA, 2010, pp. 5–54.
Xerez, Francisco de. True account of the conquest of Peru, edited by Iván R. Reyna. London: Peter Lang, 2013.
Phipps, Elena. "Inka Textile Traditions and Their Colonial Counterparts." In The Inka Empire: A Multidisciplinary Approach, edited by Izumi Shimada. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015.
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