Imperial Manchu Woman’s Semiformal Court Robe with Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty

Imperial Manchu Woman’s Semiformal Court Robe with Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty

c. 1875
Country
China
robe
Silk and metal thread embroidery on silk
Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Nancy Lake Benson and Bruce Benson
1986.157
. Imperial Manchu Woman’s Semiformal Court Robe with Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty. c. 1875. Silk and metal thread embroidery on silk. Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Nancy Lake Benson and Bruce Benson. 1986.157.
Dimensions
length: 53 in, 134.6200 cm; width: 70 in, 177.8000 cm
Department
Textile Art and Fashion
Collection
Textile Art and Fashion-Asian

Woman’s Court Robe      
About 1875, Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
China
Silk with metal thread
70 in. w x 53 in. l (177.80 cm x 134.62 cm)
Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Nancy Lake Benson and Bruce Benson
1986.157

The twelve symbols of ancient imperial authority, arranged in three tiers of four--at the neck opening, waist and knees--express the emperor’s imperial authority and qualities as well as his responsibilities to the people he ruled. Originally only the emperor could use the twelve symbols. By the 19th century, however, they also appeared on the robes of the empress, dowager empress and the heir apparent. This robe’s bright yellow ground identifies it as being made for a member of the imperial family. Bats carrying peaches fly near the gold wanshou character, a favorite motif of the Dowager Empress Cixi, wishing the wearer happiness and a long life of ten thousand years. Amid the waves are the Eight Buddhist Precious Things.

Known Provenance
Purchased 1981 from Christian Humann estate [New York, NY] by Robert Ellsworth [New York, NY]; purchased July 1982 from Robert Ellsworth by Bruce Benson [Golden, CO., b. 1938]; gifted October 1986 by Bruce Benson to the Denver Art Museum
Exhibition History
  • "Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China's Last Dynasty," October 30, 2011 - January 29, 2012 (DAM)
  • "Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China's Last Dynasty," Februrary 7 - May 18, 2014 (Taft Museum, Cincinnati, OH)