Skip to Content


Wari, Middle Horizon
650-800 CE
101.3 cm x 100.01 cm (39 7/8 in. x 39 3/8 in.)
wool, cotton

Not on view


Additional Images
Click an image to view a larger version

This tunic is, in its organization, the simplest of the Dumbarton Oaks Huari tunics and tunic fragments, although visually it appears very complex. Technically, the tunic is complete, being composed of the two separately woven textiles that characteristically make up Huari tunics.

Each textile has two main design bands. When the two textiles are joined, the composition of the tunic becomes symmetrical. The bands decrease in size in accordance with their proximity to the top of the loom. A third tiny design band occurs exactly at the top of the loom. Each of the design bands has two rows of motifs, but the sequence and arrangement of the motifs within the design band is simple, being an elementary alteration of two motifs. No motifs are ever reversed, and no motifs are turned upside down. The disposition of the motifs in one design band is exactly repeated in the other design band. The color patterning in one design band is exactly repeated in the second design band. Color distribution along diagonals occurs only within a given design band and not from band to band.

The aspect of greatest interest in this tunic is the actual design of the paired motifs. One motif consists of one-half of the standard paired imperial motifs that are normally connected by an arching form. In this tunic, the arch has been deconstructed so that only half of it appears. This diagonal half arch separates the square into two parts, one of which contains a design variation on the trophy head and the other containing a design variation on the stepped fret. These variations soften and de-geometricize the motifs. The steps of the stepped fret are sloped, the eye and nose of the trophy head are irregular, and the tear associated with the eye is softened and bulbous. The most extraordinary violation of the “normal” visual rules of Huari color patterning, however, is the visual merging of motifs. This apparent flowing of one motif into another is caused by the selection of like colors for adjacent parts in adjoining motifs, where motifs are usually defined by their color differences.

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. 69, cat. 389.

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. 280, cat. 351, pl. CL.

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. 389-92, pl. 108.

Callaway, Carol and Susan E. Bergh 1996 Form and Rhythm: Ancient Andean Textiles at Dumbarton Oaks. Hali. The International Magazine of Antique Carpet and Textile Arts (89):84-91.

Herring, Adam 2015 Art and Vision in the Inca Empire: Andeans and Europeans at Cajamarca. Cambridge University Press, New York. p. 109, fig. 50.

Stone, Rebecca R. n.d. Technique and Form in Huari-Style Tapestry Tunics: The Andean Artist, A.D. 500-800. 4 vols, Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1987. fig. 122.

Stone-Miller, Rebecca and Gordon McEwan 1990-91 The Representation of the Wari State in Stone and Thread: A Comparison of Architecture and Tapestry Tunics. Res 19/20:53-80. p. 69, 78, fig. 21, 31.

Young-Sánchez, Margaret 2010 Los Unkus De Los Señores Del Sur: Huari Y Tiahuanaco. In Señores De Los Imperios Del Sol, Krzysztof Makowski, ed., pp. 225-237. Colección Arte Y Tesoros Del Perú. Banco de Crédito del Perú, Lima, Perú. p. 232, 234, fig. 13.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, August 1949 to July 1962.

"The Collector's Microbe: Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss and the Dumbarton Oaks Collections," Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 4/9/ - 11/9/2008.

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

Acquisition History
Acquired by Robert Woods Bliss before 1949.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1949-1962.

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