Lot 122
  • 122


80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • kesi silk
  • 125.8 by 65.5cm., 49 1/2  by 25 3/4 in.
richly embroidered in bright colours with a lively scene depicting the legendary Peach Festival, depicting a pantheon of Daoist immortals and deities, with Shoulao and the Eight Immortals on a garden terrace with pine and peach trees issuing from rockwork awaiting the arrival of Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, who descends from the sky seated astride her phoenix, with a pair of cranes in flight above, within silk brocade borders, Perspex frame


Acquired in China in the late 19th century by a Belgian diplomat.

Catalogue Note

This panel is exceptional for its elaborate design in brilliant colours of Immortals celebrating the birthday of Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West. A sense of naturalism is successfully achieved through the carefully observed details, from the rendering of the deer’s fur to the differing textures of the rocks and the numerous patterns adorning the clothing of the Immortals. Kesi panels of this type decorated with such complex designs were among the most labour intensive and time-consuming tapestries to produce; hence they were reserved for the wealthiest of people.

Kesi, which means ‘cut silk’, derives from the visual illusion of cut threads that is created by distinct, unblended areas of colour as the weft threads are woven into each colour and then cut.  The earliest surviving examples of kesi tapestries date to Tang dynasty (618-907), although the technique was already used earlier in wool and became widely used only during the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1379). The fragment of a kesi tapestry has been recovered in a tomb of a man and his wife in Dulan, Qinghai province, who died in 633 and 688 respectively; and another also excavated in Dulan, was included in the exhibition China. Dawn of a Golden Age, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005, cat. no. 245.

During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), kesi panels enjoyed a rise in popularity and thrived under the Qing emperors. Early in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) official weaving workshops were established both in the Palace and in the cities of Jiangning, Suzhou and Hangzhou, in order to cater for the Court’s increasing demand for palace and temple furnishings, clothing and presentation silks for civil and military officials. Specialised centres of production soon developed around this area, such as the city of Wenzhou, Zhenjiang province, which became particularly famous its luxurious kesi tapestries.

A slightly larger kesi panel depicting the ‘Peach Festival’ but on a red ground, from the Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang, was included in the Hong Kong Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Heaven’s Embroidered Cloths. One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1995, cat. no. 119; another was sold in these rooms, 13th July 2005, lot 161; and a third was sold at Christie’s New York, 22nd March 2012, lot 1627. Compare also a kesi panel depicting Xiwangmu being greeted by female Immortals in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Silk Tapestry and Embroidery in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, cat. no. 21.

The ‘Peach Festival’ is a popular Daoist theme associated with the birthday celebration of Xiwangmu, who has the sole authority to grant Peaches of Eternal Life and bestow celebrants of the festival with great fortune. According to legend, the festival is held at the Jade Palace in the Kunlun Mountains in the Western paradise and only takes place every 3000 years. Here, groups of Immortals are pictured waiting in anticipation for the arrival of Xiwangmu, who gracefully arrives on a phoenix. The auspicious message of this theme made this panel suitable for presentation at birthdays.