Lot 70
  • 70

A Chinese silk embroidered panel, for European (probably Portuguese or Spanish) Export market

5,000 - 8,000 GBP
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  • silk, embroidered and woven silk panel
  • approximately 310 by 247cm; 10ft. 2in., 8ft. 1in.
comprised of four joined vertical ivory silk panels, finely worked overall in polychrome silks, predominantly in satin stitch, with an exuberant design of flowering scrolls, incorporating butterflies and birds, the central medallion enclosing a palmette, lotus flowers and two phoenixes in opposing directions, the corner spandrels with stylised cloud bands and double headed bird with a crown, with a wide border with similar scrolling floral design, with narrow inner and outer borders, with interlocking floral and foliate motifs; probably intended as a coverlet for a bed, the reverse silk lining embroidered along the edge, with illegible Chinese characters (X合X本(相..)


Measurements: 247cm. horizontally across the top, 247cm. horizontally across the bottom, 309cm. vertically up the left side, 307cm. vertically up the right side.The embroidery is worked over the joins of four vertically joined cream silk panels (each approximately 70.3cm, 70.3cm, 34cm. and 70.3cm respectively). Applied with four sided silk fringe (approximately 6cm. long) and four corner large complimentary tassels. Lined with pale pink panelled silk backing. With small metal hoop on the reverse in each corner. There is some minor oxidisation to the dark browns, and therefore areas of the colour missing in areas, for example where used in butterfly wings. Within the central medallion the legs of the birds, previously brown now have delicate light coloured later cross stitches instead of the brown. There are some minor surface marks to the satin ground, for example a small dark mark within the right border, just up from centre. Small stain lower right quadrant and some minute dark spots in places. This joyous panel is worked in vibrant coloured silks, with charming motifs worked very finely and is in overall very good condition. This is a beautiful panel.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

When European traders arrived in China in the early 16th century, the very well established woven silk industry in China was adapted to suit the taste of the Western market. The Portuguese establishment of a sea route around Africa in 1498, gave Iberia access to Ming China and the influences of their woven and embroidered silks. Macao is recorded as producing pieces for the Spanish and Portuguese markets. Initially it was only motifs which were ‘Western’ influences, and they were incorporated into distinctively Chinese influenced compositions. Beginning in the 17th century the textiles manufactured were specifically manufactured for the Western markets and often made to order from patterns supplied by the merchants. The double-headed eagle motif was derived from the coat-of-arms of the Habsburg monarchs who ruled Austria and Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries (1566 through to 1700). Between 1660 and 1700, Chinese embroiderers were recorded working in Surat in Indian (on pieces in chain stitch, with Chinese, Mughal Indian and Persian influences) and the large number of Chinese working in Manila by the 17th century resulted in the Sino-Spanish silk trade which Chinese designs reflecting the Spanish taste, until shortly after 1800.  The East India and the Dutch East India Company had great economic success bringing Chinese silks, including silk embroidered coverlets to Europe, to accompany the chinoserie themed furnishings. For examples of embroidered and woven silks and damasks for the Western market, and Spanish and Portuguese markets, from the 16th century through to the 18th century, see John E. Vollmer, E.J.Keall, E. Nagai-Berthrong, Silk Roads * China Ships: An Exhibition of East-West Trade, Exhibition, 10 September 1983 – 8 January 1984, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario, 1983, Silken webs of imperial dreams.. pp.13-22, for examples of damask and brocades with the double headed eagles, similar to the motif used in the present coverlet (p.19), and examples including an early 18th century Chinese embroidered coverlet, made for the Western market (Royal Ontario Museum, 914.7.17), which has a clear demarcation of border design, and an example of saffron yellow silk ground embroidered coverlet, specifically made for the Portuguese market, late 17th/early 18th century. For a c.1770/90 comparable see V&A (Inv.T.387-1970).

Related Literature:
Lanto Synge, Art of Embroidery, History of Style and Technique, The Royal School of Needlework, London, 2001, Chp. X, China a long heritage of silk, pp.286-309, Chinese exports to Europe, pp. 305-309;
Mary Schoeser, Silk, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2009, Silk in use, pp. 66-115