José de Acosta was a Jesuit priest, whose work, Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias, is a wide–ranging survey of both the nature and the history of the New World, first published in 1590. Acosta lived more than a decade in Peru, so much of the knowledge that he drew upon when writing his natural history was garnered first hand. Here, he writes admiringly of the quality and workmanship of Andean textiles. Perceptive as he was, the centrality of textiles to the Andean economy and aesthetic systems escaped his notice.
Visual Culture
José de Acosta praised the quality of cumbi cloth, fabric of finely woven camelid wool worn by Andean elites. Cumbi was two faced—that is, the textiles were so carefully woven that both sides, front and back, were finished, and could be worn facing outward. While textiles were once created on a state level by master–weavers commissioned by the Sapa Inka, after the conquest, individual households across the Andes continued to weave—not for the Inka king, but for themselves and their families. A number of these fine Andean textiles, such as the "Small Cover" and the various unkus or tunics, woven for elite Andeans or for the Church, can be seen in the Vistas gallery.

See an Andean tunic in the Vistas Gallery.

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