Shawl (Rebozo)

Artist/maker unknown, Mexican

Made in Mexico, North and Central America

Late 18th century

Silk plain weave with resist dyeing and silk and gilt thread embroidery in darning, satin, and outline stitches; knotted fringe

30 inches × 7 feet 6 inches (76.2 × 228.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. George W. Childs Drexel, 1939

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The rebozo, or shawl, was used by all Mexicans during the colonial period, regardless of class and ethnic lines. Rebozos were not only utilitarian, but were presented to young women to mark special occasions, such as their entrance into a convent. This example, made around 1790, is typical of Mexican colonial embroidery in that the back is as finished as the front. The figures depicted in the embroidery, including members of the clergy, Indian women, and Creole and Spanish elites, are engaged in leisure activities popular in Mexico City such as dancing, boating, and dining outdoors.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    A rebozo, or shawl, worn either thrown or tied over one shoulder, has held a significant place in the Mexican woman's wardrobe since the sixteenth century. The most luxurious were the embroidered shawls worn by women of the Spanish aristocracy in Mexico during the late eighteenth century, one of which is shown here. Its diagonally patterned stripes, produced with the resist-dyeing technique, are separated by plain-woven bands embroidered in colored silks and silver thread, while the ends are finished with an elaborate knotted fringe. The embroidered bands show figures engaged in a variety of pastimes, such as boating, dancing, promenading, and carriage riding. Each figure is readily identifiable by its dress as a member of one of the many social or ethnic groups within the diverse Mexican society, a theme also explored in a form of genre painting that was popular in Mexico from about 1720 until the early 1800s. Dilys Blum, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 87.