This rare ensemble comprising 2 Tunics and 5 ceremonial cloths could have been made for a child of the nobility or for a small important sculpture. The blue and yellow feathers are sewn onto a beige plain weave cotton. The main tunic is also embellished with a silver chime.
The dazzling feathers employed in the crafting of these plush feathered cloths had to be carried westward from the rain forest across the Andes to the coast, where the finished products were made. Spanish conquerors reported that during early-sixteenth-century Inca times, large quantities of plucked feathers as well as birds, both dead and alive, were brought to the coast. Parrots, macaws, and Muscovy Ducks—all easily tamed—are also thought to have been kept as pets.
Feather-working was a widespread and ancient tradition in Andean cultures in Precolumbian times. Considered a luxury material by peoples along the Pacific coast and in the Andean mountains, feathers were used in rituals as well as to embellish festive and ceremonial garments and ornaments of persons of high rank. Particularly sought after were the brilliantly coloured feathers of rain-forest birds that inhabit the eastern slopes of the Andes and the vast Amazonian basin.
The highly specialised craft of feather-working used different techniques to surface garments and objects with feathers. Textiles covered with feathers were usually made by sewing strings of feathers—mostly the small body feathers or larger wing feathers of birds—to the fabric.Some feather-working techniques are explained here, and feathers are identified primarily by sight. The ancient context of feathered textiles is only rarely known, leaving iconography, style, and technology to determine approximate dates and cultural attribution. In recent years, however, archaeological investigations and technological studies have shown that most surviving feather pieces were made during the last five hundred years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in Peru or during the early colonial period in the sixteenth century.