Mantle (Peruvian, Paracas, 0–A.D. 100)

Wool plain weave with stem stitch embroidery. Denman Waldo Ross Collection (16.32). Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

This Paracas burial mantle has been on view in the MFA’s Ancient South America Gallery (Gallery LG33) since February 2017, and is nearing the end of its scheduled rotation. Visit the MFA soon to view this ritual textile, with its densely-embroidered checkerboard squares that frame standing figures sporting animal-like masks. Each figure is depicted holding a staff topped with a monkey in one hand, and a knife (matching descriptions of the sacrificial “tumi” knife) in the other. A plant-like stem sprouting leaves, and dotted with human trophy heads embroidered along an linear channel, flows from the figure’s mouth in a lyrical arc; evoking the role of sacrificial death in the perpetuation of life.

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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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