Pre-Columbian, South Coast of Peru, Nazca culture, ca. 100 to 300 CE. A massive, vibrant, woven textile mantle created from camelid fibers (llama or alpaca wool), with a fantastical geometric design using bold colors for which the Nazca are justifiably famous. The mantle is decorated with a gridded pattern of alternating dark red, an earthier iron red, teal, dark brown, and navy blue rectangular panels, each then filled with regularly spaced, white (though aged in many places to beige) rectangular outlines that resemble abstract eyes when viewed from above. What do these shapes represent? Some Nazca textiles have fantastical imagery of humans and animals, while others are more abstract, like this example. Size: 48.75" W x 93" H (123.8 cm x 236.2 cm); it is displayed on a large cloth with a light wooden frame which is: 53" W x 96.5" H (134.6 cm x 245.1 cm)
In Nazca cemeteries, the dead were wrapped in layers of cloth. Elite people were given brightly embroidered textiles like this one, along with jewelry decorated with feathers and precious metals. Many hours of labor would have gone into making this mantle, and the imagery and colors were intended to convey the veneration of the deceased ancestor, as well as to form a bridge between the living and the dead. Analyses of similar textiles in museum collections have shown that the color and motif choices were complex and systematic, with some meaning that we can only guess at today, nearly two thousand years removed from this culture that left no written records.
Provenance: private Tucson, Arizona, USA collection, acquired between 1950 and 1985
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Light wear and discoloration in some areas as shown, with the edges slightly frayed. Overall, however, it is in beautiful condition for its age and material, with very clear motifs and vibrant colors, especially the darker red.