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A MONGOL 'CLOTH OF GOLD' SILK AND METAL THREAD ROBE
A MONGOL 'CLOTH OF GOLD' SILK AND METAL THREAD ROBE
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A MONGOL 'CLOTH OF GOLD' SILK AND METAL THREAD ROBE

CENTRAL ASIA, LATE 13TH OR 14TH CENTURY

Details
A MONGOL 'CLOTH OF GOLD' SILK AND METAL THREAD ROBE
CENTRAL ASIA, LATE 13TH OR 14TH CENTURY
Of silk woven with a bold design of burnished gold lotus vine on a ground of bold floral designs, with long pleated flaring skirt, long tapering sleeves, the remains of panels of similar contrasting silks forming the collar bands, with original mid blue cotton plainweave lining, fragile in some areas, splits around the chest area and occasionally elsewhere, facings very tattered, lining splitting
57in. (145cm.) long; 74½in. (189cm.) cuff to cuff
Provenance
Acquired by present owner 2011, formerly with Asian private collection since 1980s.

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Andrew Butler-Wheelhouse
Andrew Butler-Wheelhouse

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Lot Essay

The structure of this robe is typically Mongol. Designed to be worn over trousers, it has a full skirt (for riding), a broad wrap-over front, and extremely long decorative sleeves. These sleeves would normally be worn drawn back, and the arms extended through slits cut at the base of each, and would only be extended over the hands in cold weather. Contemporary manuscript illumination shows figures dressed in similar robes. A miniature in the Archaeology Museum Library in Istanbul depicts an 'Enthroned Patron in royal Guise' from the Marzubannama (Book of the Margrave), attributed to Baghdad, 1299 AD. A ruler sits cross-legged upon a large throne, his robe tying as ours (Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni, The Legacy of Genghis Khan. Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353, New York, 2003, p.172, fig.200). A Chinese depiction of Chabi, the consort of Kubilai Khan, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, shows her wearing a robe whose facings are clearly made from contrasting coloured figural silk brocades very similar indeed to what is found in the present robe.

Many artists and a large number of works of art passed between East and West Asia under the fluid conditions of the Pax Mongolica transmitting, as they went, new artistic techniques and designs. Because of their aesthetic appeal, costliness and ease of transportability, textiles played a particularly dominant role in the creation of a new aesthetic in Iran.

The present robe has a particularly opulent gold which shines considerably stronger than on most robes. The structure includes a layer of red strands which hardly ever appear at the front, but which could be a part of what makes the gold so effective. A similar use of red within the structure, and also forming the narrow outlines, is seen on a spectacular cloth of gold fabric that is covered with double headed eagles, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art (James C.Y.Watt and Anne C. Wardwell, When Silk was Gold, Central Asian and Chinese Textiles, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1997, no.36, pp.144-145).
The boldness of the palmette vine on this robe is another feature that makes it stand out. The pattern, with its meandering vine issuing bold lotus flowerheads, is similar to that of a light blue ground textile that was used for the mounting of an early 15th century Tibetan thangka (Watt and Wardwell, op.cit., no.62, pp.202-3).

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