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AN IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE SYMBOL 'DRAGON ROBE', LONGPAO
AN IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE SYMBOL 'DRAGON ROBE', LONGPAO
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PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF AN AMERICAN GENTLEMAN
AN IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE SYMBOL 'DRAGON ROBE', LONGPAO

GUANGXU PERIOD (1875-1908)

Details
AN IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE SYMBOL 'DRAGON ROBE', LONGPAO
GUANGXU PERIOD (1875-1908)
The kesi ground is woven in shades of blue, violet, red, pink and gold threads with nine five-clawed dragons clutching or confronting flaming pearls amidst clusters of ruyi-shaped clouds interspersed with bats, shou characters, and auspicious emblems. The Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority are arranged in three groups of four: the sun, the moon, constellation and mountain around the neck; the fu symbol, axe, paired dragons, and golden pheasant around the body; and the pair of libation cups, aquatic grass, grains of millet and flames, all reserved on a bright yellow ground above the Eight Buddhist Emblems rising from the terrestrial diagram and lishui stripe at the hem; with midnight-blue cuffs and collar decorated with further dragons and clouds. The interior of the garment is stamped with a Vatican stamp dated 4 Giu. (June) 1955.
56 in. (142.2 cm.) long, 85 ¾ in. (217.8 cm.) wide
Provenance
Sotheby's New York, 23 March 2004, lot 553.

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Lot Essay

The Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority first appeared on the Manchu emperor's clothing after 1759. These symbols were superimposed on the general decorative schema of Qing court garments, losing the visual prominence they had enjoyed during the Ming dynasty. Nonetheless, they emphatically demonstrated the Qing intention of embracing the traditional role as rulers of the Chinese empire. Under the Qing the first four symbols--sun, moon, stars, and mountain--were placed at the shoulders, chest and mid-back. The symbol of distinction (fu), axe, paired dragons, and the golden pheasant appeared at waist level. Temple-cups, aquatic grass, grains of millet, and flames were placed at knee level on the skirts of the coat.
The dragons on this robe are worked in gold-wrapped threads, with clouds primarily in shades of blue against a yellow ground. Among the earliest examples of the predominant blue and yellow schema for an emperor's twelve-symbol 'dragon' robe is an embroidered satin robe in a London collection that dates to the late eighteenth century. See G. Dickinson and L. Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, London, 1990, p. 32-33, pl. 23. However, most surviving pieces, like this example, date from the nineteenth century. See J. E. Vollmer, Decoding Dragons: Status Garments in Ch'ing dynasty China, Eugene, Oregon, Museum of Art, 1983. pp. 143 and 209.

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