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Purple Satin with Gold Threads and Floral Design

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Period: Guangxu reign (1875–1908), Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Dimensions: Width: 56.5 cm; scroll diameter: approx. 4.5 cm

This purple (fenzi, lit. “powder purple”) satin with a bellflower design was likely imported from Europe in the late-Qing period (Qing dynasty, 1644–1911). Made on an eight-heald frame with three shuttles, the fabric is embellished with a weft floral motif in gold thread. It was made using double weft weaving with the purple ground weave and gold thread set at a 1:1 arrangement. With a lustrous effect at the interlacing designs, the unique fabric has an elegant aesthetic. The thin gilt border design is done in a Western decorative style.

The bellflower is associated with a variety of traditional sayings. To commemorate the artistic talent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, infants blessed with bellflowers are said to possess great creativity and artistic aptitude. The bellflower, in an allusion to wind, also symbolizes far-reaching blessings, unwavering love, and enduring friendship. In Greek mythology, the West Wind envied the bellflower due to its becoming the object of the sun god Apollo’s love. Consequently, the West Wind threw a disc at the head of the bellflower, yet more flowers bloomed from where its blood was spilt.

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