Man’s mantle and two border fragments (Peruvian, Paracas, A.D. 50–100)

Wool plain weave, embroidered with wool. Denman Waldo Ross Collection (16.34a-c). Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Intricately embroidered with richly dyed colors of thread, this magnificent mantle dating to A.D. 50–100 displays fifty-five “bird impersonator” figures adorning a dark plain weave ground. Several figures within the border were never fully completed. Matching figures on a skirt that belongs with the mantle were also left unfinished, with only their outlines rendered in gold thread, and a solidly embroidered gold border setting off their detailed contours (click here for image). The various stages of needlework on these textiles offer us clues about the sequential creation process.

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Objects in Brief is a randomized showcase of the MFA, Boston’s encyclopedic Textile and Fashion Arts collections. A featured object is indicative of the author’s curiosity and chosen so she may learn about its material and structural properties, function, history, and greater story. These “quick studies” have led to more in-depth explorations posted in A Closer Look.

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