Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A VERY FINE AND LARGE EMBROIDERED DAOIST IMMORTALS 'BIRTHDAY' PANEL
ANOTHER PROPERTY
A VERY FINE AND LARGE EMBROIDERED DAOIST IMMORTALS 'BIRTHDAY' PANEL

QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)

Details
A VERY FINE AND LARGE EMBROIDERED DAOIST IMMORTALS 'BIRTHDAY' PANEL
QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)
The large, rectangular panel is finely embroidered with an elaborate scene depicting Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West, riding on a phoenix while accompanied by a female attendant holding a feather fan, as she descends towards Shoulao and two of the Eight Daoist Immortals waiting on a terrace lapped by the waves of the sea to offer birthday felicitations to Xiwangmu, while the other five immortals are shown below, all accompanied by female and male attendants in a setting of pavilions, mountains, a stream, vaporous clouds, rocks and trees, including peach, pine and wutong, all in shades of blue, peach, green, cream, red and brown and with some details executed in Peking knot; now mounted as a scroll.
76 x 41 in. (193 x 104 cm.), Japanese wood box
Provenance
Private collection, Kyoto, Japan.

Condition report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

During the Qianlong period, Gathering at the Turquoise Pond (yao chi) was frequently the subject of large textile hangings in both tapestry weave (kesi) and embroidery made for the occasion of imperial birthdays. The depiction of the Daoist paradise on Mount Kunlun populated by the God of Longevity (Shoulao) and the Eight Immortals (Baxian) with their attendants awaiting the arrival the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu ) riding on a phoenix by extension carried, along with such a gift, wishes for the long life of the recipient.

This exceptional example is remarkable for the quality of its execution and its near pristine condition. We are able to appreciate the remarkably subtle fine silk embroidery, as it appeared when the piece was finished nearly two and a half centuries ago. The phrase “painting with a needle” is an apt description of this hanging scroll in which every detail, no matter how small, is created with very fine silk floss threads. All of the facial features of the figures from eyebrows to beards, from the subtlety of hairlines of females wearing hair pulled back into elaborate chignons, to the wrinkled brows of old men, have been embroidered with precision and great skill. Similarly, patterned textiles from overall small-scale geometric patterns or roundel-patterned damask weaves are worked only with needle and thread. This attention to detail and the emphatic insistence on using the embroiders’ skill in depicting elements of the scene only with stitching extends to depictions of the lichen on rocks, the darker speckles on grassy areas and spots on skins of the peaches.

Shading seen on the neck of Xiwangmu’s phoenix, the risers of the steps leading to the terrace, or the blush on peaches has been created by a skillful preparing of individual strands of floss incorporating blends of increasing darker or lighter hues. These are used in areas of interlocking long and short stitches. The celestial “five-colored clouds” in the upper section are expressed as clusters of sinuous lines worked in stem stitch. The trees in the middle ground beside the stairway are a bravura display of knot stitching. The occasional accent of very thin gold- or silver-wrapped thread is seen in the pair of jue cups carried by the servant on the stairway and the roof ridge tiles of the palace in the distance.

The meticulous execution and overall aesthetic quality of this hanging scroll are strong arguments for a dating to the reign of the Qianlong emperor. Having been preserved in a Japanese collection in Kyoto, the scroll is in exceptional condition, and was remounted in Japan during the last century.

For another depiction of the subject embroidered on blue satin, see: The Metropolitan Museum of Art 30.75.31, Bequest of William Christian Paul.

John E. Vollmer

More from Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

View All
View All