The Abduction of Helen from a set of The Story of Troy, Cotton, embroidered with silk and gilt-paper-wrapped thread, pigment, Chinese, Macao, for export market

The Abduction of Helen from a set of The Story of Troy

Date:
probably first half 17th century
Culture:
Chinese, Macao, for export market
Medium:
Cotton, embroidered with silk and gilt-paper-wrapped thread, pigment
Dimensions:
Overall: 142 3/4 x 189 in. (362.6 x 480.1 cm)
Classification:
Textiles-Embroidered
Credit Line:
Gift of Louis E. Seley, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.282
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.
Vitall and Leopold Benguiat (until 1929; their sale, American Art Association, The Anderson Galleries, New York,November 30, 1929, no9. 56; sold for $3,000); Louis E. Seley , New York (until 1979; to MMA)