A Very Rare Imperial Chestnut-Ground Gauze Silk Summer 'Dragon' Robe, Jifu

Bonhams is delighted to offer a very rare Imperial chestnut-ground gauze silk summer 'dragon' robe, Jifu, Qianlong, Lot 197 (estimate £50,000 – 80,000) for sale on 16 May 2019 in London, New Bond Street.

Brilliantly embroidered on both sides in fine counted stitch with nine resplendent dragons worked in metallic gold thread and interspersed with trailing ruyi clouds and colourful sprigs of blossoming flowers, the present robe is a spectacular testament to the highest standards achieved in silk embroidery by the Imperial Workshops during the 18th century.

Brown-ground jifu robes are among the rarest surviving examples of Imperial garments manufactured during the Qing dynasty, especially when complete with all their original parts including the neck edgings, cuffs, sleeve extensions, brocade ribbon borders and inner edging panels, such as the present robe.

Tailored in a delicate silk gauze, this robe would have been certainly worn during the warmer months of the year and possibly by the Qianlong emperor himself (1735-1795) or a very high-ranking member of the Imperial family of Princely rank, on the occasion of a felicitous event. the chestnut-colour, referred to in Chinese as jiang, written in two characters interchangeably meaning either 'dark red' or 'sauce', was referred to in the 'Illustrated catalogue of all the Ceremonial Trappings of the Imperial Court' Huangchao liqi tushi, edited in 1759, as one of the 'Five Imperial Yellows' that could be worn by the emperor's sons and first rank's princes but also the emperors when visiting their mothers or retiring in their private quarters. The present robe is particularly unusual for the details embroidered amongst the cloud scrolls, including abundant branches of ripened peaches, marigold issuing from craggy rocks. These subjects suggest that the garment may have been worn by the Qianlong emperor during one of his birthday celebrations.

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