Feather art

Art with feathers or plumaria : Elaboration of objects by means of feathers. These objects are mostly artistic


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  • 1 History
  • 2 Historical review of this use
  • 3 Feathered thread technique
  • 4 Religious
  • 5 Feather fashion in the Modern and Contemporary Age
  • 6 Key elements to develop the Feather Art
  • 7 Transcendence
  • 8 References


Plumario art has been developed in all parts of the world, some examples: human groups from Africa and the East , in some islands of the Pacific such as Hawaii and also Peru . Feathers were worn in outfits for distinction of social, religious and power classes. From prehistory the human activity of developing personal arrangements with bird feathers develops; according to the species and traditions found in each region. This type of art is worldwide and is presented in most cultures. Among the ancient settlers of Americathere was a greater wealth and variety of works due to the cultural and species variety with which it was possible to elaborate all types of headdresses and attire, which served as an indication of the social rank. The DRAE describes it as the use of feathers as pictorial material, as a mosaic tile. It was characteristic of the Mexican civilization, and some samples after the Spanish conquest of Mexico are preserved.The artisans of Mexican plumaria art were called amacacas . Since prehistorythe human activity of making personal arrangements with bird feathers develops; according to the species and traditions found in each region. In America, it spread to some Amazonian areas, where they can still be seen in few indigenous groups. In the [[Inca Empire, they were also used, but it was in the territory that Mexico currently occupies, that is, in Mesoamerica , where it reached its maximum splendor, both in the Mayan culture , some 500 years earlier than in the Aztec , the Tlaxcalteca and particularly in Purépecha , leaving us with great examples of the mastery with which this art was cultivated. The most admired plumar object in the world is the so-called “Moctezuma plume”, Technically known as” plume of Ambras “, which is exhibited with a mosqueador , and that is in the Ethnographic Museum in the City of Vienna .

Historical review of this use

“The knights from head to toe wore all feathered weapons on the stew , and those who were not, gave them no feather, but, on the stew, leather of different animals. The cause was because there was]] pragmatic that the pen should not be used except to whom the kings gave leave for being the shadow of the lords and kings and call them by that name and beware, true, with more rigor than the pragmatics of our times of not bringing silk. ” ( Fray Diego Durán , History of the Indies of New Spain and Islands of the Firm Land ).

Feathered Thread Technique

Some pieces of prehispanic plumarian art have very peculiar characteristics. This is the case of [[tlàmachtēntli de Madeline, a 300-year-old huipil restored and preserved in the Textile Museum of Oaxaca. In this huipil a complete pen was not used, but the down. The down was only trapped between cotton capes, it was not spun together with the cotton. This caused restorers to rethink the term “spun feather” which is the one that is frequently used in the literature. It was when observing this peculiarity that it was decided to call the type of fabric as “feathered thread” or a crooked feather. There are currently only six pieces in the world, including Madeline tlàmachtēntli, woven with feathered threads. In these six pieces the down is used to create a thread that is then woven, a technique that has not been detected in any other culture in the world.


In cultures such as the Americas, this type of tradition is deeply marked by ancestral and mythical customs through which the contact between man and nature occurs through the role assumed by the user of the garment. For example, in some Amazonian tribes, participants in rituals and dances take on the qualities of the bird with which they decorate their garments. The Americans were famous for their headdresses with beautiful arrangements in feathers of [[eagles and crows ; In this group we find the Apaches and the Crows (with arrangements similar to pending). In Mexico the Aztecs were famous for their quetzal feather headdresses(first pen to be marketed in America). In some cultures such as the Aztec in addition to the ritual and religious significance, warriors were associated with a particular type of animal; This is the case of the eagle warriors, who were dressed in eagle feathers. Among the Caribs and Guajiros of Colombia, the custom of using the number of feathers in their attires was known according to the number of enemies eliminated in combat. In other parts of the world, warriors were used to be adorned with plumes made of colorful feathers, such as those of Greek and Roman helmets and those of medieval knights , or with long feathers sewn to hats, such as those used by French musketeers of the seventeenth century. Some contemporary armies still use feathers as a component of some uniform, especially in the Italian army. The Mayans, meanwhile, combined the quetzal feathers with jade and obsidian arrangements that are possible to see in several museums around the world. For most Mesoamerican cultures, birds and especially quetzal were sacred beings because they had the ability to fly were associated with the gods of the wind like Quetzalcoatl (whose name means feathered serpent). In Polynesiaand Hawaii the art of plumaris is widespread. The feathered helmets and the layers made with thousands of feathers of the island’s own birds were symbols of dignity, spirituality and power of tribal chiefs.

Feather fashion in the Modern and Contemporary Age

After the Renaissance and well into the twentieth century, it was customary among gentlemen and ladies of each era to wear colorful hats, many of which had colorful plumage arrangements as a vital part of their design; Like those of the Victorian era .

Key elements to develop the Feather Art

  1. Artists: People who developed the sensitivity necessary to produce the works. The art itself depended on the imagination of the artist, as well as the material available.
  2. Birds: That with the very varied color of their feathers, they provide the most important raw material for execution.


Over time the collection of feathers and birds has become increasingly difficult to achieve, and artists dedicated to this art became increasingly scarce, in addition to their technique has fallen in quality. However, there are still very small groups of artisan-artists who, fighting against great difficulties, continue to insist on maintaining and rescuing this delicate, difficult and admirable feather art.

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