Lot 8
  • 8

Chimu tunic with fringe, Late intermediate Period, ca. A.D. 900-1150

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • textile
finely woven in brilliant colors with kneeling dignitaries in tule totora boats, composed of two panels each with a symmetrically opposed scene, the long rafts each with upturned bow with a bird diving into the jar balanced on the prow, the figures with hour-glass shaped noses and wearing turbans falling to one side, the figures on the boats kneeling on splayed feet, each holding an oar, with nets attached to each vessel  with catch within, smaller attendants in the field surrounded by flying water-birds and fish, each sleeve attached separately with the same scene; generously trimmed by layered tassels with fringe below; in wool on cotton warps in interlock weave.


Estate of Kate Kemper, London, (Arte Primitivo, New York, December 8, 2004, lot 410)

Kate Kemper, of London and Switzerland (1908-2004) was an early collector of Andean art, forming an important collection of ceramics and textiles after visiting Peru. Her comprehensive collection was formed in Europe and exhibited in various museums including  Ancient Peruvian Art, at the Arts Council, London in 1962, and Alt Peru in 1972 at the Landesmuseum as noted below .



Hans Eichler, Alt-Peru,  Die Sammlung Kemper, Landesmuseum, Münster, pg. 73, cat. no. 464, catalogue to an exhibition, March 5-April 9, 1972

Catalogue Note

This vibrant textile featuring a generous use of the prized cochineal red, is a rare depiction of the totora reed boats and fishermen. The important fertilizer, guano, was a valued commodity for the seasonal valley agriculture and was perhaps traded inland. Aquatic imagery is thus a natural theme that was expressed in a variety of artistic mediums including the architectural friezes at the capital Chan Chan, and embossed on gold beakers. Graphic depictions of fish are dominant in Pachacamac textiles (see Lavalle 1991: 268). This textile uses the entire "canvas" of the shirt to show an informative, narrative scene. It is noteworthy that the leading ancestral figure to the Chimu, Naymlap, arrived by boat to the Lambayeque coast.  

The brillant scarlet red color was achieved by a labor intensive process of cultivating and harvesting the cochineal beetle (genus dactylopius) which lives on the prickly pear cactus. Enormous numbers of dried and pulverized beetle bodies and their carminic acid were needed to create a few ounces of dye. It was a highly valued commodity in ancient  and Colonial textile production  (Stone-Miller 1992:126-127). The creation of a large elite textile such as this was a community endeavor, requiring the commitment of many social groups, from dye makers to weavers.

For other examples of fishing scenes, see Lavalle Chimu (1988:207 and 213), Lavalle and Cardenas (1999: 486, pl. 4), and for a Huari example in The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C., see Reid (2008:78). This textile is closely related to a brilliantly colored mantle in the Amano Museum, Lima,  see Lavalle and Cardenas (1999:472, pl. 27).