Object of the month - September

Silk and gold brocade used for making dragon robes, 16th–17th century, Nanjing Museum

Silk and gold brocade used for making dragon robes, 16th–17th century, Nanjing Museum

UNVEILING THE BEAUTY OF THE DRAGON: GOLDEN ROBES FIT FOR AN EMPRESS

During the Ming dynasty courtly costume was strictly regulated by law. The fabric, design and colour of a garment was highly symbolic and indicated the status of the wearer. This silk and gold brocade is decorated with a pattern of Mang dragons on a background of clouds. Mang dragons have four-talon claws while imperial dragons have five-talon claws. Only the emperor was allowed to wear robes with five-clawed dragons. Designs featuring Mang dragons, such as the one on this brocade, could only be worn by empresses, imperial concubines or members of the Ming nobility. The robe would have been cut so that the head opening was at the centre, with a single Mang dragon displayed on the front and back when worn.

You can see this beautiful brocade in our exhibition Ming: The Golden Empire which will be presented at the Caixa Forums of Barcelona, Palma and Zaragoza in 2016 and 2017.

David Roberts