This exhibition explores how real and mythical animals—such as the dragon, unicorn, phoenix, lion, ox, and butterfly—are depicted on luxury materials of late imperial China. Presenting twenty textiles and fifty lacquers spanning several hundred years—from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century—the exhibition highlights the imagery on a wide range of objects: dragon robes, rank badges, and tapestry panels for interior decoration, as well as many different types of lacquer vessels from imperial workshops. The objects are drawn exclusively from The Met collection, and some have not been on display for several decades.
Among the works on view are two carved red-lacquer pieces from the early fifteenth century: dish with two birds and peonies has a lavish image treatment typical of the period; and sutra box with dragons amid clouds, which depicts a sinewy dragon, is representative of the elegant boxes produced for use both at the court and as diplomatic gifts, particularly to Tibet. Also of note is a late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century woman's informal robe covered with embroidered butterflies.
The exhibition is made possible by the Joseph Hotung Fund.
Woman's informal robe with butterflies, late 19th–early 20th century. China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Embroidered silk satin, 53 x 82 in. (134.6 x 208.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George F. Miller, 1970 (1970.145)