Tunic Section

7th–9th century
Camelid hair, cotton
H. 19 7/8 x W. 40 3/4in. (50.5 x 103.5cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Some of the most spectacular and visually complex textiles surviving from ancient Peru are tunics woven in very fine tapestry weave by Wari textile artists. The design on Wari tunics—considered the most elite, prestigious elite male garments—is commonly arranged in six vertical columns, plain ones alternating with patterned ones. The motifs used are limited in number, but difficult to read because they are often distorted, expanded, or compressed at the sides as seen on this tunic fragment: it shows the same abstract animal-headed profile figure holding a staff in each hand; this is repeated four times in different color combinations, its body facing right in the bottom register and left in the register above.
    In 1954 the Museum of Modern Art mounted the last seminal "primitive art" exhibition organized by René d'Harnoncourt, Ancient Arts of the Andes. The loans from South America and from private and public lenders in the United States illustrated the extent and depth of ancient Andean heritage. This revelatory exhibit showcased one of the great strengths of Andean art: textiles. Among the works featured was this important quarter section of a male tunic, lent by Nelson Rockefeller. The fragment later was presented in the Museum of Primitive Art's Selected Works Four, Art of Ancient Peru in 1958, where Peruvian textiles were also showcased.

  • Provenance

    [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