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Four-Cornered Hat with Winged Staff-Bearing Figures

Wari or Provincial Wari, Middle Horizon
750-850 CE
12 cm (4 3/4 in.)
wool, cotton

Not on view


Four-cornered hats with pile, such as the Dumbarton Oaks examples, are generally associated with the Huari empire. The hats usually have a camelid fiber foundation and are constructed using a single-element looping technique, forming what are usually described as lark’s head knots or cow hitches, made of two symmetrical simple loops. A needle would have been used to draw the end of the yarn through the previously completed fabric. The top and points of the hats are constructed separately from the sides. The top is started in the center and worked concentrically, with knots added at the corners to form a square, and it usually lacks pile. The sides are made of flat rectangles, starting at what will be the bottom of the hat. A variety of starting edges is found, though the most common is a row of interconnected loops. The knot is two-faced, with a different appearance on each side, and on the sides of the hat each row faces in the opposite direction from the previous one.

The design of this hat is derived from the Huari style animal-headed angel, which though more angular and simplified than is usual in Huari style tapestry is closer to its original than is the case in other hats of this style. The corners correspond exactly to the design panels in this case.

The color combinations repeat on opposite sides of the hat. That is, there is a red ground panel on the side opposite from a red ground panel and a blue ground panel opposing a blue ground one. All other colors repeat in the same places from one side to another. The design is the same on all four sides except for a few small details, such as whether the eye pendant curves forward or backward and whether there is a tassel extending from the front of the headdress. These details are the same on adjacent figures rather than on identically colored figures.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 65, cat. 363.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1947 Indigenous Art of the Americas: Collection of Robert Woods Bliss. National Gallery of Art; Smithsonian institution, Washington, D.C., p. 39, 155, cat. 216.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 282, cat. 359, pl. CXLIV.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill (ED.) 1996 Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks; No. 1. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. vol. 2, p. 411, pl. 116.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to May 1948 and January 1956 to July 1962.

"Clothing for the Afterlife" Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, 10/7/2015 - 5/22/2016.

Acquisition History
Acquired by Robert Bliss before 1947

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1947-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Hats | Huari | Staff God|Staffed Deity|Staff Deity | Staffs