Wari weavers produced some of the most striking works of Andean art. They used a complex system of iconographic rules that played with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and geometric motifs, expanding and contracting shapes to the point where pattern takes precedence over recognizable form. The tunic shown here follows the usual Wari canon of organizing colorful designs into vertical bands that become thinner or more condensed at the edges of the textile than they are in the middle. This creates a sense of changing perspective, so that the person wearing the tunic would appear rounder or fatter than he or she really was. This was a desirable state in the agricultural societies of the Pre-Columbian world, indicating that the person had sufficient wealth or power to secure large quantities of food.
This tunic is unique in eschewing the repetitive geometric designs typical of Wari textiles. Instead, it presents a variety of recognizable figures. They appear to be festival participants, including musicians, costumed dancers, and animals. Four felines are depicted inside the red and white band around the neck of the tunic, and there are four rows of figures below with two and a half figures on each side of the center seam. The figures face the center of the garment, and, with a single exception, those on the left half appear in mirror image on the right. There are panpipe players, drummers, birds, monkeys, and a young feline on a leash. A human figure in the second row from the bottom holds one hand to his mouth, perhaps playing a whistle or flute, and another figure, next to the armhole, holds a staff with five round projections and a streamer on top, possibly a rattle. At the bottom, six humans with feline heads carry staffs in a procession. Whether a historical event or a mythical scene, this was quite a party.
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"Ancient Art of the Andes", Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1/26 - 3/21/1954; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, 4/21 - 6/13/1954; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, 7/23 - 9/19/1954.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1956 to July 1962.
"The Ancient Americas: Art from Sacred Landscapes", Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 10/10/1992 - 1/3/1993; Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, 2/14 - 4/18/1993; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, 6/6/ - 8/15/1993.
"Clothing for the Afterlife" Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, 10/7/2015 - 5/22/2016.
Purchased from Walram von Schoeler, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1949.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1949-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.