About an Unknown Artist's

Huipil Tehuantepec


REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different from the original artwork?

This is a digitized image. The original is a woman's shirt called a huipil. It is soft, made of velvet, and is heavily embroidered. In the reproduction, the huipil is laid flat. Its form is only fully appreciated when it is worn. A woman wearing this huipil would be aware of the weight of the garment produced by the thick embroidery. Both the front and back of the huipil are embroidered, but the digital image shows only the front. The image cannot capture the tactile quality of embroidery and velvet.

The Huipil Tehuantepec is part of a larger costume. The full costume includes a large, lacey headpiece, gold earrings, a gold pendant on a chain, and a long skirt. The skirt is fully embroidered with the same style, large flowers from waist to below the knees. The bottom twelve inches of the skirt is a large, pleated, lace ruffle.

CONDITION: What can I determine about the condition of the artwork?

The huipil is in excellent condition.

SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts, if anything?

The huipil has a broad square of brightly colored embroidered flowers in the front and back. There are three large red roses and seven smaller blue, pink, and red flowers against a background of leaves. The square of flora is embroidered onto black velvet.

TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can I learn about how the artwork was made?

A circle is cut into the middle of a large rectangular piece of black velvet. It is folded in half and the cut circle provides the opening to be slipped on over the head. The sides are sewn, leaving openings for the arms. Cotton thread is used to thickly embroider the flowers. Thousands of parallel stitches in rows (satin stitch) fill in the colors to form the flowers and leaves. The yellow stamens in the center of the flowers are formed with embroidered knots (French knots). Major shapes are outlined with black, back-stitched lines.

Sensory Lesson Index

SENSORY ELEMENTS: What visual elements do I see?

Small black lines outline many shapes within the floral pattern. Bands of dark, medium, and light values of the same color create the effect of light reflected from a curved surface. The juxtaposition of the velvet black background (negative shapes) contrasts with and enriches the brilliant colors of the leaves and flowers.

FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?

The square central panel mirrors the shape of the huipil itself. Curves in the flowers are contrasted against the rigid outline of the panel as well as the square shape of the entire garment. The organic scalloped edges of the shapes produce a rhythmic quality. The embroidery vibrates with an interplay of positive shapes formed by the flowers and the negative velvet background. Colors are bright and complementary (red and green).


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