Peruvian cotton armorial tapestry

Peru, late 18th century

This cotton tapestry combines indigenous and colonial Spanish motifs.

The coat of arms at the centre of the tapestry is European but has not been linked to any known family of the Spanish conquistadors. A central panel is filled with mermaids playing a variety of musical instruments. They are surrounded by lush vegetation, birds and animals representing vitality and fertility.

Surrounding this is a border showing hunters with guns wearing European-style attire. while the outer border represents the Inca nobility. Kings with staffs, headdresses and sun-shaped gold medallions are attended by women holding a pair of wooden drinking beakers or keros.

An architectural feature is represented at the top and bottom of the tapestry, perhaps a church entrance as indicated by the arched windows and columns. The multi-coloured chequered flags flying on the building are mirrored by the banners seen on the keros. This whole scene conveys the spirit of festivity and ceremony which also portrayed on the wooden keros themselves.



From their capital, Cuzco, in Peru, the Inca controlled a huge empire reaching over 2,400 miles along the length of the Andes mountains. The supreme head of state was the king, considered a living god ruling by divine right.

Incas world culture

Inca ushnus

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More information


Colin McEwan, Ancient American Art in Detail (London, The British Museum Press, 2009)


Inca colonial


Length: 244cm
Width: 216cm


Museum number



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This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects

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