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Woman's Blouse or Huipil

Arts of the Americas

Maya women in Guatemala wear traditional blouses, or huipil, as emblems of their ethnic and community identity. The multicolored geometric designs brocaded on the front, back, and shoulders of this huipil identify it as Quiche Maya from Chichicastenango. An abstract double-headed eagle motif appears on the front and back center panels as well as on the shoulders. Black silk appliqués decorate the sunburst design and four disks around the neck opening, representing the four cardinal directions.

In agricultural societies such as the Maya, clothing designs relate to the natural world and have the power to protect the wearer from supernatural harm. When opened and laid flat, the huipil design has cosmological significance: the head opening becomes the sun, surrounded by the four directions and other designs inspired by the natural world. The wearer is therefore placed at the center of the universe.
MEDIUM Cotton, silk
DATES 1930s or 1940s
DIMENSIONS 30 x 31 in. (76.2 x 78.7 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Gift in memory of Elizabeth Ege Freudenheim
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Ceremonial blouse or huipil made of three four-selvedge panels of white cotton, brocaded on the front, back and shoulders. The multicolored design on the central panel represents the double-headed eagle, and the horizontal bars represent its wing and tail feathers. The neck opening with its silk appliqué of radiating points represents the sun, and the four rosettes represent the four directions. Condition: good
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Maya. Woman's Blouse or Huipil, 1930s or 1940s. Cotton, silk, 30 x 31 in. (76.2 x 78.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift in memory of Elizabeth Ege Freudenheim, 2005.15.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2005.15.1_PS1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2005.15.1_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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