Georges Halphen


Georges Halphen was a decidedly eclectic collector. Among the objects that fascinated him featured Chinese and Egypt artworks, objects from the Bering Sea, pre-Columbian textiles and modern art. In 1930, he even acquired a blue period Picasso from the art dealer, Rosenberg.

It was in great secret that he indulged his collector’s fever. Besides, he preferred to be called an “amateur” rather than a “collector”, as he felt that the former had negative connations linked to greed and the need to possess.

He never ceased to be amazed by the inventiveness and artistic boldness of pre Columbian textiles.

Acquisitions, donations and dations have allowed the Museum to obtain nine pieces: two in 2002 and seven in 2004. They belong to the Wari (500-1000 A.D.), Chimú (1100-1450 A.D.) and Nazca (200-700 A.D.) cultures from the important collection that Halphen began to build up between the two great wars. These pieces could not have been obtained without the understanding of his heirs and his assistant Nivedita Kinnoo.

Fabric and ornament creation and production from feathers was one of these cultures’ greatest achievements. Feathered textiles were held in the highest esteem by the Peruvian population, on par with gold, silver, shells and colored stones. Archaeology proved that they used them during funerary rituals, to embellish luxury items for the elite or as amulets for more than two thousand years, from Chavin de Huantar (100-200 B.C.) to Inca times.

donation of a feather tunic

In 2002, Georges Halphen donated a feather tunic to the Museum. This tunic inflects the figurative themes of an iconography revolving around ancient Peruvian funerary cults and ceremonies. The tunic was used as a component of funerary rituals, as part of the fardo funerario, a sort of cloth bundle in which the mummy was wrapped and enclosed. Buried in a sacred grave, the body could morph for its final voyage.

Description of this feather tunic in "Plumes d'éternité - Parures funéraires de l'ancien Pérou - Collection Georges Halphen" (Somogy, copublished with the Maison de l'Amérique Latine, Paris, 2003):

« The characters are symmetrically depicted with arms outstretched, their headpiece is semi-circular. Andine dualism is expressed through the opposition of colors and two pairs diagonally arranged, one with red headpieces and black faces, the other with blue headpieces and yellow faces. Symmetry between man and bird is particularly present. »



Feather tunic © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Patrick Gries, Valerie Torre
Feather tunic (detail) © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Nicolas Borel

Dation of seven textiles

In 2004, the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac was given seven remarkable textiles from Peru through dation:

  • a ceremonial chest piece
  • a postiche head
  • a feather headpiece on cotton cloth
  • four feather tunic on cotton cloth



Postiche head © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Patrick Gries
Feather tunic © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Patrick Gries, Valerie Torre