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Chinese design was immensely admired and sought-after in Europe and this banyan and waistcoat are a unique blend of Chinese textiles and Western tailoring. They are clearly cut, tailored and sewn in a European style. Banyans and nightgowns were popular informal men's garments worn for leisure at home and among friends.

Both banyan and waistcoat have been made out of a silk woven especially for the Chinese Imperial Court. There were specific garments known as 'dragon robes' to be worn at court in China, and these were usually not available for export to the West. They were richly brocaded in gold and coloured silks with dragons on the front and back of the robe and stylised landscape borders. Dark blue, along with yellow and black were the colours worn by the Emperor and his family, according to occasion. Imperial dragons always had five toes; the four-toed dragons depicted here were intended for a relative of the Emperor. The landscape includes mountains, associated in Chinese symbolism with happiness, and rivers, representing longevity. The colours used, design and quality of weaving are typical of silk to the late Jia Qing dynasty or 1800 to 1825.

The Italian tailor who made the banyan and waistcoat, adapted to the wide, flowing style of the Chinese robe, while retaining the usual European front opening instead of the traditional Chinese side opening. The characteristic cuffs on a Chinese dragon robe have been inverted on the banyan sleeves. Careful piecing of the brocaded design and use of the undecorated parts of the satin ground have made the conventional sleeved style of a European waistcoat. The style of the waistcoat, with long sleeves and short skirts is old-fashioned for the early 19th century.

Details

  • Title: Banyan and waistcoat
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1800/1810
  • Location: China
  • Provenance: Purchased with support from a generous individual

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