The Abduction of Helen, from a Set of The Story of Troy

probably first half 17th century
Chinese, for the Portuguese market
Cotton, embroidered with silk and gilt-paper-wrapped thread, pigment
Overall: 142 3/4 x 189 in. (362.6 x 480.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Louis E. Seley, 1979
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This monumental hanging depicts Helen's abduction—the legendary event that sparked the Trojan War. Chinese embroiderers relied on European printed sources for the subject and the composition but incorporated design motifs from their own decorative vocabulary, including phoenixes in the border and stylized waves in the background. The figures' faces and limbs were painted directly on the cotton foundation in a European style, likely by Chinese artists who were taught in Japan by Jesuit missionaries. Scientific analysis of the pigments supports this intercultural exchange, since testing found a blue-green pigment not used in Asia and a white common in Japan but not used in Europe.

  • Provenance

    Henry G. Marquand (until 1903; Marquand sale, American Art Galleries, New York, January 24–30, 1903); Vitall and Leopold Benguiat (until 1929) ; [ Marquand sale, American Art Association–Anderson Galleries , New York, November 30, 1929 ] ; Louis E. Seley (until 1979; to MMA)