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2005.5.250 - Embroidered Silk Robe for the Dowager Empress

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Object Typerobe Artistunknown Date Made1885-1908

Item Details

Object Typerobe Artistunknown Date Made1885-1908
Accession Number 2005.5.250 Title Embroidered Silk Robe for the Dowager Empress Alternate Title Chenyi, or informal court woman's robe, for the Empress Dowager Cixi, semi-formal style Category clothing Object Type robe Artist unknown Date Made 1885-1908 Place Made China Culture Chinese Period Qing 19th century Materials blue silk satin embroidered with silk and metal-wrapped threads Materials Glossary Embroidery View Materials Glossary Details » Measurements overall: 134 cm x 130.5 cm; neck to hem: 134 cm Description
Eight mythical phoenixes (with a hidden ninth phoenix under the outer flap, similar to the position of dragons on dragon robes) are embroidered on this robe in a pattern similar to a dragon robe, alluding to the…
Eight mythical phoenixes (with a hidden ninth phoenix under the outer flap, similar to the position of dragons on dragon robes) are embroidered on this robe in a pattern similar to a dragon robe, alluding to the “heavenly perfection” of the high-ranking wearer. Mythical phoenixes or fenghuang, which are feminine in contrast to the masculine dragon, were reserved for women of the highest rank and they represent their power. Another symbol on the robe appears as two versions of the shou character, which symbolizes longevity.

Boldly coloured peonies - in pink, mauve, blue, and white - fill the background of the main fabric. These flowers have been expertly rendered in a flat, even satin stitch with an ombre effect, providing dimension to every blossom. Peonies are the flower related to springtime and their inclusion on this robe may represent the feminine beauty of the wearer. The blue background with a mauve border, made from aniline dyes introduced from Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Although we cannot officially confirm this robe was owned by Empress Dowager Cixi, she was known to have a fondness for peonies, and this style of robe certainly influenced the style of multiple other extant robes.

In the late Qing dynasty, chenyi, or informal court robes, became popular among the imperial elite women as this garment was not regulated by official codes and could be styled in multiple colours, motifs, and shapes, as opposed to more formal robes. In comparison to another informal robe style, the changyi, this robe has narrower sleeves and no side slits. The sleeves follow the general shape of more formal Manchu style robes, which would typically extend longer and end in a horse hoof-shaped cuff, and the inclusion of phoenixes still follows the conventions of formal court attire.

Credit Line Gift of Sandy and Cécile Mactaggart
© 2020 University of Alberta
© 2020 University of Alberta
© 2020 University of Alberta

Citation

Page Citation for 2005.5.250 - Embroidered Silk Robe for the Dowager Empress

Page Citation

"2005.5.250 - Embroidered Silk Robe for the Dowager Empress, Mactaggart Art Collection." University of Alberta Museums Search Site, https://search.museums.ualberta.ca/21-19472. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Publications

Author Vollmer, John and Jacqueline Simcox
Title Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection
Publication Date 2009