Exhibitions/ Art Object

Piece of Furnishing Silk

Made in China
25 3/4 x 29 1/2 in. (65.4 x 74.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Lydia Bond Powel, 1967
Accession Number:
Not on view
Chinese silk furnishing fabrics rarely survive due to light exposure and the rigors of everyday use as curtains and upholstery. Philadelphian Elizabeth Willing Powel (1742–1830) ordered this furnishing silk through her nephew, a principal at one of the city's leading China-trade firms. Chinese export silks were often less expensive than European-made products, but the real allure for patriotic citizens of the new United States was their direct importation from Canton on American-owned ships. Powel was very certain of the colors she wanted, sending samples to match, but was no more specific about the damask designs than requiring a "pattern of flowers handsome and well-executed." She ordered two hundred yards of the yellow damask for her tearoom, along with matching lining, trim, cord, a sewing silk, and the same amount of the "bright scarlet" damask for her "dining parlour."
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