Andean Tapestry

Date: 1400
Owner: Art Resource
Source Type: Artifacts


Like many textiles produced by indigenous Andeans, this patterned piece contains a variety of colors and repeated animal motifs. Animal symbols represented divinities of the earth, sky, and water, and the animals depicted tend to be ones that existed in between two of these conceptual zones, such as condors (like those seen here) and toads. Textiles that include such powerful symbols are sometimes known as llikllas and have traditionally been used by Quechua shamans to send prayers into the spirit world. The visual linking of symbols for the earth, sky, and water are considered to be conducive to producing rain, an effect also attributed to shamanistic sacrifices of alpacas and llamas (Seibold 1992).

Yet the design represents only part of the value of a piece such as this; the sheer amount of highly skilled work that went into each and every textile was extraordinary. A typical tunic, for example, had about eighty-two wefts (threads woven back an forth by the weaver) of extremely fine handspun cloth in a single centimeter and was woven together as a single unbroken piece of cloth (the arm holes were made by including gaps in the warp) (Rodman and Cassman 1995). The end product is thus valuable as art, craft, clothing, and culture.


Rodman, Amy Oakland and Vicki Cassman. "Andean Tapestry: Structure Informs the Surface." In Art Journal, Vol. 54, no. 2, Conservation and Art History (Summer, 1995), p. 33-39.

Seibold, Katharine E. "Textiles and Cosmology in Choquecancha, Cuzco, Peru." In Andean Cosmologies Through Time: Persistence and Emergence. Eds. Robert V.H. Dover, Katharine E. Seibold, and John H. McDowell. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

CITATION: Tapestry from Chancay Culture, Peru. Museo Amano, Lima, Peru. Jorge Provenza / Art Resource, NY. ID: ART130931.