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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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.