Amazing Early 16th Century Peruvian Textile, Circa date: Late 16th Century – Peru has an ancient tradition of textile and fiber arts that goes back nearly 10,000 years. Peruvian textiles predate the invention of pottery and began to appear at about the same time as agriculture. The textile traditions of Peru developed into several types, including the famed featherwork textiles of the Andes. This is a beautiful piece of textile with a geometric design and use of vibrant colors that typifies work from the region.
This small piece dates from the early 16th century, around the time when Europe was first introduced to these textiles. In 1532, the Spanish first invaded Peru, sending back ships filled with gold, silver, and fine textiles, such as this one. The Spanish Conquistadores provided detailed descriptions of the looms used to weave these treasures.
The Conquistadores described their surprise at finding such fine textiles in such rich colors and designs from a people they considered primitive. These designs developed far from European influences and reflect the rich cultural tradition of the Peruvian people. Only a small handful of these early pieces of Peruvian textile still survive, making this one especially precious.
Peruvian weaving uses a different technique from European styles of textile production. The pieces have four selvages and were woven from one end of the warp and then the other, creating a piece that has symmetry on the ends and meets in the middle. They built one section of the pattern independently from the rest of the pattern and did not use a reed and beater as you find in European weaving techniques.
This is a small piece that shows the intricacy and typical designs of textiles of this time. Many of the designs and color choices are regional and reflect the local traditions that surrounded the creation of the piece. Feathers, tassels, and other ornamentation are an integral part of the work. The tassels on this piece might indicate that it was meant to hang from the edge of a table. It could also be used as a small window covering or piece of decorative art. It would make a magnificent piece of wall art in a frame to be displayed as a reassured antique.