The loosely cut style of the banyan (a man's informal robe) is based on that of the Japanese kimono. Robes like this became popular in Europe from the mid-17th century, brought back by members of the East India Company, and by the 1670s European tailors were making banyans, also known as nightgowns. During the 18th century nightgowns evolved into several different shapes, from the simple T- shape of the original kimono to others cut more like the European coat. Their generically 'oriental' air was part of a wider taste for exotic designs that formed part of the fashion for Chinoiserie.

This banyan is a striking and rare example, in very good condition for its age, made from blue silk damask woven in China for import into Europe. Such silks were primarily intended for furnishing, and appear in merchants' records as 'bed damasks'; the length of their pattern repeat was displayed to best advantage in the long drop of bed curtains. A silk damask of closely similar design to this was used to furnish a room in the summer palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy, Schlosshof, in 1725 (now in MAK in Vienna).


  • Title: Banyan
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1720/1750
  • Location: China
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 153 cm nape of neck to hem at centre back, width: 97 cm centre neck to sleeve end with cuff unfolded, Circumference: 142 cm chest under arms
  • Medium: Silk damask

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