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This textile object is a embroidered bedcover, thought to have been made or processed in China for a foreign market. Although the background has now faded into a vermillion shade, it would have been on a striking red backgrouind when it had been new.
The main centre of production of Chinese export textiles in the 16th - 17th century would have been Canton, or Macau island, (an island off the Cantonese coast where the Portuguese settled from 1557), as these were the main areas from which foreigners were allowed to trade with the Chinese, under Chinese supervision.
While it might have been possible that Cantonese embroiderers were copying from a design provided by their clients, the icononography and the embroidery technique bear an extraordinarily heavy Portuguese influence: The double-headed pelican motif was a popular motif in Portuguese textiles from the 17th - 19th century, and the embroidery bears great resemblance to that produced in the Portuguese region of Castelo Branco, particularly in the use of flossed, untwisted silk thread and lattice gold work executed on large textile backgrounds formed of a few loomwidths of silk panels joined together. The possibility exists that while the silk panel forming the background of this cover might have originated in China and been exported from Canton or Macau, the needlework may be Portuguese.
Bedcover of red silk, embroidered in colours and couched gold threads, central design of a double-headed bird
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Length: 259 cm, Width: 208 cm
Quilt cover, embroidered silk, China, 1550-1750
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Wilson, Verity. Chinese textiles. London: V&A publications, 2005, plate 25.
East Asia Collection