CHINESE IMPERIAL CARPETS

This small but refined selection presents 6 rare Chinese silk carpets brocaded with gold and silver metal threads, mainly woven in the nineteenth century and until the end of the last Chinese dynasty (Quing, 1644-1911) to decorate various rooms of the Imperial Palaces in the Forbidden City of Peking (Beijing). Many of these in fact bear inscriptions referring to the buildings or rooms for which they were woven.

The large yellow ground example with five Imperial Dragons, formerly in the Acton collection at Villa la Pietra in Florence, bears for instance an inscription that places it in the “Palace of Celestial Purity”, the great audience hall for the meetings of the Emperor’s Great Council.

The Dragon, portrayed with five claws, is a symbol of the Emperor, Son of Heaven, and it seems that only objects intended for use by the Emperor himself could depict dragons with five claws, while all the others, intended for export, usually had only four.

Only a small number of these carpets, unknown for long time also to carpet specialists, survived and has arrived to us. It was only in 1973 that a first, pioneering exhibition was organized at Pittsburgh University Art Gallery, with specimens from important private collections, as well as from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.[1]

More recently (2015) an exhibition of 35 specimens from the same group was set up at the MAO in Turin.[2]

The exhibits on display come from a private Italian collection and have been collected on the market over the last few years.

[1] [1] Haskins, J.F. Imperial Carpets from Peking, Catalog of the Exhibition, University Art Gallery, Henry Clay Frick Arts Building, 15 February-18 March 1973.

[2] Il Drago e il Fiore d’Oro. Potere e magia nei tappeti della Cina Imperiale (1644-1911), Torino, Museo d’Arte Orientale, 2015.