Textile with Elephants, Crowned Double-Headed Eagles, and Flowers
second half 16th century
Chinese, for Iberian market
74 1/2 × 29 in. (189.2 × 73.7 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1940
Not on view
This finely patterned damask was woven in China and probably traded through the port of Macau. The design features the Hapsburg double-headed crowned eagle and an Asian elephant (identified by its small ears). This multi-tusked elephant likely represents one described in a fifth-century Chinese translation of a Buddhist sutra. The European consumer may not have understood the religious reference but would have appreciated the fine weaving and exotic imagery. Symbols of power, elephants were given as tribute to Chinese emperors and imported by Portuguese kings to be used as diplomatic gifts to the courts of Spain, Austria, France, and England.