The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, University of Turin, Italy
Accession number 1676
Turin cotton cemí. Dimensions H: 550mm; W: 355mm.
Although several such cotton reliquaries were reportedly sent to Europe as curios shortly after 1492, this is the only example known to have survived. It was found in a cave west of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, at some point prior to 1891.
Although its survival in a cave for centuries may initially appear remarkable, caves often provide exceptional organic preservation. It was found by a man hunting wild boar, who was so alarmed by what he saw that he struck out at it with a machete – but later returned with help to remove it from the cave.
It eventually came to the collection of Sr. Cambiaso, who sent it to Italy by about 1903. At some point prior to 1928, the Director of Turin’s Egyptian Museum, Ernesto Schiaparelli, donated it to Giovanni Marro, the founder and first director of Turin’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology.
Studying the sculpture