Silk and metallic thread on silk (kesi); 15 x 13 1/2 in. (38.10 x 34.29 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1941 (41.123.2)
As the woven inscription suggests, this textile once served as the cover for an essay from the brush of an emperor. The manuscript is not in the Museum's collection, but the essay, entitled Yu bi chuang ye shou cheng nan yi shuo ("The Imperial Brush's Dissertation on the Relative Difficulty and Ease of Founding and of Maintaining a Dynasty") is included in the Collected Writings of the Qianlong emperor, who reigned from 1736 to 1795.
The scroll cover, with its sinuous dragon on a field of flowers, is a woven silk tapestry (kesi). Two other textiles that combine this pattern and technique contribute to our understanding of the scroll cover. A very similar Chinese tapestry-woven scroll cover of the twelfth century in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, provides a close precedent for the Qianlong scroll cover. It also suggests a further connection with the Qianlong emperor, for the holdings of the National Palace Museum are comprised largely of the imperial collections of the Qing dynasty, and the Qianlong emperor presided over a peak in the imperial collection of art, both contemporary and ancient. In addition, a thirteenth- to fourteenth-century Central Asian textile in the Museum's collection is relevant as an example of the origin of the pattern (1987.275).