Exhibitions: Living Legacies: The Arts of the Americas

Incan Tunic

Tunic, or Unku. Peru. Inca artist, Colonial Period, circa 17th century. Camelid fiber, silk, metallic thread. Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.224.51

After the Spanish Conquest in 1532, the traditional Inca tunic for men took on new forms and meanings. Local lords, or curacas, adopted garment styles that had previously been reserved for the Inca nobility. These members of the new elite appropriated the high-status garment of the past in order to validate their authority. This tunic is unusual because it combines Andean and European symbols: traditional Inca geometric designs known as tocapu are visible along the lower edges of both sides and around the neck; the images of Inca men and women and heraldic shields flanked by lions, embroidered in silver thread, show European influence.