Exhibitions/ Art Object

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:
Not on view
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.
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)
Related Objects

Daybed (Lit de repos or sultane) (part of a set)

Artist: Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1748–1803) Date: 1788 Medium: Carved, painted and gilded walnut; modern cotton twill embroidered in silk Accession: 41.205.1 On view in:Gallery 546


Date: 17th century Medium: Foundation: cotton; supplementary weft: metallic thread; pile: silk, Sehna knot Accession: 1982.60.79 On view in:Gallery 539

Armchair (bergère) (part of a set)

Artist: Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1748–1803) Date: ca. 1788 Medium: Carved, painted and gilded walnut; modern cotton twill embroidered in silk Accession: 41.205.2 On view in:Gallery 546

David and Abigail

Date: mid-17th century Medium: Linen embroidered with silk thread Accession: 64.101.1325 On view in:Gallery 517

Seasons and Elements (Summer) (set of four)

Artist: Possibly after a design by Charles Le Brun (French, Paris 1619–1690 Paris) Date: ca. 1683 Medium: Canvas; silk, wool, and metal-thread embroidery in tent stitch (316 stitches per sq. inch, 49 per sq. cm.) Accession: 46.43.2 On view in:Gallery 531