Border Fragment (Peruvian, Paracas, 200 B.C.-0)

Border fragment, wool plain weave with stem stitch embroidery. Seth K. Sweetzer Fund (31.901). Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The mythical creature embroidered on this border fragment dating to 200 B.C.-0, multiplied in diminutive form along the fringe’s edge, might be interpreted as a fish, a bird, or a composite of both. Along the Peruvian south coast, wind-driven upwelling of the northward-flowing Humbolt current brings dense, cooler waters toward the ocean surface. The current brings with it nutrient-rich waters promoting a fertile marine environment that in turn supports abundant avian species that feed on its bounty. However perceived, the ubiquitous presence of such images imagined by Paracas embroiderers is emblematic of their intimate and reciprocal relationship with the natural world.

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Object a Week is a revolving showcase of MFA textile collections. A featured object may be indicative of the author’s study focus at a given moment and/or related to topics of research, activity, or recent acquisitions in the Museum’s Textile and Fashion Arts department. For more in-depth explorations of the collection, see A Closer Look.

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