A fine embroidered silk panel

A fine embroidered silk panel

18th century

23 x 46 in, 58.5 x 117 cm

Flowers, including begonia, marigold and rose, grow around a pierced ornamental rock, all embroidered in subtle pastel tones on a golden-yellow silk ground. In a Chinese wood frame.

Begonia (qiuhaitang) was a favourite subject of Chinese craftsmen from the Song dynasty onwards, and as it blooms in the autumn and bears a resemblance to crab apple, it is called “autumn crab apple”. Marigold is known in Chinese as “chrysanthemum of ten thousand longevities”, and the rose is symbolic of longevity.

The quality of this embroidery indicates that it would have been commissioned by the Imperial Household Department (Neiwufu), and its colouring and subject matter suggest that it would have adorned the walls of one of the imperial palaces, and, with its wishes for longevity, may have been a birthday present for the emperor or one of his close family.

A related panel of auspicious flowers and rocks, symbolising birthday congratulations, is illustrated in Embroidered Pictures: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, no. 32, p. 65. Note also a screen inset with similar panels in Hu, Gugong Bowuyuan Cang Ming Qing Gongting Jiaju Daguan, Vol. I, no. 381, pp. 356-7, in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.