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Tunic (Uncu)

Catalogue Description:
Size: adult; probable wearer: male. Wool (camelid), warp-faced plain weave; wool, silk, and metallic (on linen core) embroidery; wool plain-weave appliqué (European?). One of only a few known Spanish Colonial embroidered tunics composed of a single length of warp-faced plain weave camelid wool with a subtle herringbone pattern. It is dark brown in color with broad stripes of red at the sides and embroidered designs at the neck opening and the bottom. In several places the embroidery is covered by small appliqués of cloth. The warp threads alternate narrow stripes of yarns spun in the "S" direction with narrow stripes of yarns spun in the "Z" direction. The result is a subtle striping effect throughout the fabric called l'loque. Contemporary Andean weavers believe l'loque keeps the "spirit" of the cloth contained. On one side, the border design consists of two Inca warriors amid three pairs of heraldic animals; on the other side three Incas are portrayed attended by musicians and women offering flowers. Embroidered above the head of the central Inca is a rainbow. The heraldic animals and Inca warriors on the other side are sewn with silver threads in a dense composition that resembles European textile designs, while the Incas and their attendants are sewn in bright colors with each figure standing out clearly against the background in an arrangement similar to the painted designs on native drinking cups (keros). The bottom edges of both sides are the same. They are embroidered with a row of small rectangular patterns that recall the tocapu designs woven on pre-Conquest Inca tapestry tunics. The neck of the tunic is also decorated with tocapu-like designs and floral motifs; on one side below the neck opening is an appliqué of a double-headed eagle of European derivation. It is possible that some of the embroidery is a recent addition; however, the appearance of the garment convincingly indicates prolonged use.


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