Scroll Cover with Birds and Flowers
Song dynasty (960–1279)
Silk and metallic thread tapestry (kesi)
Overall: 8 11/16 x 13 3/8 in. (22 x 34 cm)
Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1966
Some of the earliest preserved examples of Chinese tapestry survived as covers for paintings. This piece came into the Museum’s collection as the cover for the handscroll Dragon Boat Regatta on Jinming Lake after Wang Zhenpeng (ca. 1280–1329). Using such a precious textile in this way both highlighted the importance of the painting and enhanced viewing, as opening the cover and unrolling the enclosed painting were part of the total experience. The type of weft used to make this piece along with the rendering of the motif of birds in flowers show Central Asian influence. However, the balance and precision of the design are typically Chinese, as is the magic fungus held in the birds’ beaks. The cuteness and intentional awkwardness (zhuo) of the scene are important aesthetic values in traditional Chinese art.
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