Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.



Museum collections often contain works of art of uncertain provenance. Additionally, hybrid works attributed to Colonial cultures reflect the composite nature of a cross-cultural society integrating native and foreign traditions. An interdisciplinary technical study often is needed to identify such an object, including where it was made, when and by whom. The following paper presents the results to date, of a collaborative investigation from art historical, scientific, and conservation perspectives, of a textile belonging to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. (fig. 1).

Catalogued as Colonial Peruvian, the textile was considered for inclusion in the Metropolitan Museum’s Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork 1520-1820, an exhibition that took place in the fall of 2004. However, because of the textile’s unusual physical characteristics, its Andean provenance was questioned. Knowing that further extensive research would be required, it was not included in the show. Aspects of this research are now in progress, including investigation into the fibers, fiber-processing techniques, dyes and weaving techniques, along with dating and the examination of related objects. The aim of this investigation is to clarify the origin of the object. On a broader scale, the project addresses the larger issues of the impact of technical research on curatorial suppositions and whether material techniques used to construct works of art can be used as cultural markers or cultural identifiers.

The textile was accessioned into the Cooper-Hewitt collection in 1902, as part of a gift purchased in Spain though a well-known donor, J. P. Morgan. The gift was comprised of nearly 1000 other pieces, including several other important Colonial Andean textiles, notably a silk tapestry woman’s mantle.