Large Feather Panel (checkerboard pattern), c.1400 AD
Inca culture, c.1400 AD
Plain weave with applied feathers, 50 x 157 cm
An exceptional and rare example of Andean Pre-Colombian virtuosity within the medium of feathers. Although we have dated this work to the Inca period, it may well be earlier.
In the Pre-Colombian Andes , feathers were highly valued for their magnificent silken texture and imbued colours, as bearers of profound symbolism.” e gloss, splendour, and sheen of these feather cloths is of such exceptional beauty as to be mesmerising for the viewers,” So wrote an early Spanish invader. Astounded by the grandeur and the quality of the textiles worn by Inca nobility, they particularly admired the luxurious cloth covered with plush, brilliantly coloured feathers of birds from the Amazonian rain forest.
Such portable luxury goods were markers of statues and power, and because the Inca, like other ancient Andean peoples, did not use a writing system, textiles also played an important role in expressing, recording, and preserving concepts about the human, natural, and supernatural realms. These bold minimalistic design, striking formal sophistication, and superb craftsmanship of this half tunic appeal intuitively and directly to modern sensibilities, serving as inspiration for twentieth-century artists such as Max Ernst and his wife Dorothea Tanning, the feather collection is now in the Metropolitan Museum collection.