Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chinese Textiles
Amy Clague’s Brocade Collection (Part II)[1]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Preamble
For your convenience, I have listed below the first part of this post.
Chinese Textiles: Amy Clague's Brocade Collection (Part I)
Chinese Textiles: Amy Claguue's Tapestry Collection (Part I)
Chinese Textiles: Amy Clague's Tapestry Collection (Part II)


Introduction
Amy Sanders Clague’s remarkable collection of Chinese textiles incorporates superb examples from the Song through to the Qing dynasties. It enables art historians to re-assess textile arts of China’s recent centuries from 1100 to 1900s. In China, textiles were often admired on par with paintings and calligraphy and so they were inspired and informed by those arts. Their use in tribute and trade as well as in Buddhist ritual contexts was dramatically revealed in more recent studies. The “Clague” collection explores these topics further and therefore, examines the relationship of textiles in the greater context of Chinese art.

Chinese textile.
Era: Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (A.D. 1736-1795).
Size: 53.3 x 14.6 cm. (21 x 5 3/4 in.)
From the collection of Amy S. Clague.

Amy Clague’s collecting was stimulated by recent exhibitions of Chinese textiles in Hong Kong and New York. She lent several works to - Heaven’s Embroidered Cloths: One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles - organized by the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 1995, the first major international exhibition to bring together textiles and costumes from collections throughout the world. The gathering of scholars and collectors at the symposium for that exhibition fuelled her interests. She was inspired to continue to collect a broad range of styles and techniques within Chinese textiles and so gleaned works of varying function rather than concentrating on aspects of costume, the latter an area where many significant studies have already emerged.

Heaven's embroidered cloths: One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles, Hong Kong Museum of Art (1995).

Two years later The Metropolitan Museum in New York and The Cleveland Museum of Art held a joint showing of Central Asian and Chinese textiles in an exhibition called - When Silk was Gold - and this gave further impetus to Amy Clague’s desire to collect Chinese textiles. She resolved to follow James C. Watt and Anne E. Wardwell, who set a high standard of scholarship in their ground breaking study of Chinese and Central Asian textiles. She thus allowed her textiles to be subjected to technical analysis and radio carbon dating as well as a full examination by textile conservators.

When Silk was Gold (The Metropolitan Museum in New York).


Chinese Textiles – Amy Clague’s Brocade Collection (Part II)[1]

Ceremonial shawl with horizontal stripes (Tibetan).
Description: Silk tabby with supplementary wefts; polychrome silk yarns in counter changed weave.
Era: Ming dynasty 15th - 16th Century.
Size: Length: 204.5cm (without fringe); Width: 51.0 cm (including selvages).
Comments[1]: The decorative program is conceived in vertical symmetry. A white silk band appears at the top and bottom. Working inward, the weaver has created bright colored bands and then a lattice-like border. The central image is the Tibetan motif called the kalacakra. The symbol is formed of the ten interlocking syllables (including On Ham Ksha Ma La Va Ra Ya Sva Ha) called the “all powerful ten”, written in Lantsa characters, an Indic script derived from Sanskrit and use for Buddhist devotional inscriptions. Together these symbols form both a mantra and a cosmological diagram. The kalacakra emblem appears in more elaborate form in Qing textiles, depicted here with a lotiform base but with added embellishments of floral, cloud and other motifs.

Detail front.

Detail back.

Large square panel with crossed vajras, Eight Auspicious Emblems (bajixiang), lotus blossom and other Buddhist symbols.
Description: Silk lampa; red silk ground of dyed yarns in 2/1 twill weave, interwoven in tabby weave with gold colored silk yarns.
Era: Ming to early Qing dynasty (17th - 18th Century).
Size: Length: 92.0 cm, including fringe; Width: 92.0 cm including selvages.
Comments[1]: This textile is perfectly square including its salvages and fringes and thus appears to be complete as originally woven. Its shape and its radial symmetry suggests that the textile was intended for use as a canopy, suspended to be seen from below, rather than a wall hanging. The symbol of the vajra, also called thunderbolt, is emblematic of the power of knowledge over ignorance. The term vajra is associated with the hardness of a diamond and thus symbolizes the enduring and indestructible nature of Buddhist teachings and enlightenment. The form of vajra varies, but it is usually depicted in two-dimensions as a hand-held symbolic weapon with three prongs on either end. Sometimes the center portion of the vajra incorporates stylized lotus blossom motifs and the prongs themselves emanate from the mouths of makaras. The weavers of this textile alluded to these shapes in their depictions of the implements.

Garment of Tibetan chuba type with four-clawed Mang dragons. Note: It is the front of the garment.
Description: Silk damask brocaded with supplementary wefts; yellow silk ground of dyed yarns in 3/1 broken twill weave, the ground interwoven in brocade weave with polychrome silk yarns, with gold-wrapped yarns, and with flat gold leaf adhered to paper substrate.
Era: Qing dynasty, probably 18-19th Century, construction, employing Ming and Qing fabrics, probably 17 to 18th Century.
Size: Length: 146.0 cm; Width: 197.0 cm.
Comments[1]: This robe is of the Tibetan type called chuba. Distinguished by its tapering sleeves and its profile, which flares outward toward the hem, the chuba can range from a practical to a ceremonial garment. The more elaborate chuba were often made out of silk yardage woven in China and many such examples survive in museums and private collections. Silks and other textiles were regular traded by the Chinese for Tibetan horses and also presents as gifts to Tibetan Buddhist lamas. The practice began before the Ming dynasty and continued throughout the Ming and Qing periods. As in other border areas, the robes were also dispensed together with rank and privilege to leader with allegiance to the Chinese Court. Silk for court robes, and the privileged wore dragon robes, were bestowed on Tibetan nobles and high lamas and on Mongol nobles and high-ranking military leaders. The Clague’s chuba is similar to robes worn by Tibetan officials on ceremonial occasions.

Back of garment.

Detail.

Another detail.

Another detail.

Silk chair cover with decoration of a dragon amidst scrolling clouds.
Description: Silk brocade; salmon (faded from medium orange or red) silk ground of dyed yarns in 2/1 twill weave, the ground interwoven in brocade weave with polychrome silk yarns, with gold-wrapped yarns, and with flat gold leaf adhered to paper substrate.
Era: Qing dynasty (probably late 18th - 19th Century).
Size: Length: 165.6 cm; Width: 52.8 cm.
Comments[1]: The symbolism of the dragon paired with the flaming jewel or pearl is often featured. Traditionally regarded as the bestower of life-sustaining water, the dragon was emblematically paired with clouds or with rolling waves from the Song dynasty onward. In the Ming and Qing times, dragon imagery typically assumes cosmological symbolism. In this chair cover, for example, the dragon – the prime emblem of the yang or male forces of the universe – also symbolizes the heavens and cosmic forces in general; rising from the primordial seas, the triangular mountain peak over which the dragon appears represents the earth.

Silk chair cover with decorations of three dragons against a patterned ground.
Description Silk brocade; black silk ground of dyed yarns in draw-loom or jacquard-loom weave, the ground interwoven in brocade weave with gold-wrapped yarns.
Era: Qing dynasty (late 19th - early 20th Century).
Size: Length: 237.5 cm; Width: 60.0 cm (including selvages).
Comments[1]: The five-clawed dragons and the extensive use of gold suggest that this chair cover and its mate were made for palace use. The virtually perfect condition further suggests that this cover was never used. Both the black-and-gold color scheme and the use of two hues of gold date this elegant chair cover to the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century. In addition, the division of the textile into three, instead of four, compositional sections supports this late Qing attribution as does the unification of the design scheme through the use of the key fret pattern.


Reference:
[1] C. Brown et al., Weaving China’s Past, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix (2002).

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