Monday, 17 January 2011

Embroidery of Heavenly Beauty

Went to see the Imperial Chinese Robes exhibition at the V&A at the weekend. Dresses and robes worn by some of the emperors and empresses of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) are on loan from Beijing's Palace Museum. It's the first time they have been shown in Europe, though many visitors to the Forbidden City have not seen them either as most of the collection is kept in storage.

Emperor's yellow dragon robe, 1736-1795.

Wow. What can I say? Photographs don't do them justice, let alone words. The embroidery work is astounding. Only the most skilled masters would have been commissioned, using the best material to make the most exquisite garments for the emperor and the royal household, so you can just imagine the quality. Each piece is covered in needlework so fine, the fact that they are all done by hand makes them that much more fascinating. The most amazing thing is how well they've been preserved - the colours are still vibrant after hundreds of years. Some of the unused rolls of fabric seem as if they've been woven yesterday.

Empress' festive headdress 1875-1908

Woman's shoes, 1875-1908

The exhibition isn't very big but the robes and accessories on display require close appreciation so it is well worth seeing. On until 27 February 2011. Makes me want to visit Beijing even more!

Length of green satin, 1796-1820

Images via V&A.


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