This robe a la Anglais is made from the most stunning and unusual hand painted silk in a design I have not seen before. The silk was almost certainly painted in Guangzhou (Canton) province. The exceptional silk was painted in the 1750s, during the Qing dynasty and the Qianlong emperor's reign (1735-1795). The silk was exported to England during George IIIs reign and made up into a robe into a robe in the 1770s. The robe was not altered as I previously thought. Many museums have hand painted silk dresses, but I can't find any with similar fabric design where they have combined a blue and white design with polychrome shades. The design was drawn in ink and the areas to be painted covered with white lead, pigments such as malachite (green) and orphiment (yellow) and vermillion (red) and lead white are used.
Most Chinese export items, including textiles, were traded through Guangzhou (Canton), and in 1753 was the only permitted port to trade. In 1750 almost 70,000 kilos of raw silk and nearly 20,000 silk goods were exported to Europe via the East India Company, with a third destined for Great Britain. It was used for bed and wall hangings, as well as dress fabric.
Fabric: A taffeta silk painted in the 1750s with mid blue, pale blue and ivory convolvulus trellis enclosing sprays of eight different flowers including orange honeysuckle, pinks and roses in deep pink and mauve and a blue star shaped flower.
Robe: The scooped neck with front opening bodice, with short extended front onto the skirt, the back bodice with squarish neck and three vertical central bones and seams, flanked by a further seam, all gathered into a gently curving open front and a very trained skirt, elbow length sleeves, the bodice and sleeves lined with fine glazed cotton.
The skirt has three full loom widths and two 22 inch; 56 cm widths, all with yellow selvedges.
Bust 34 in; 86 cm
Shoulder to hem front 53 in; 137 cm
Shoulder to trained skirt 70in ; 1.75 m
This robe had been badly remodeled in the 20th century. We removed the lining and put the bodice back to its original shape. The pleats to the skirt have been properly reinstated. The sleeves in the past have been altered, perhaps taken in. The very back hem of the train is a little grubby. You will see the painting on the bodice is paler than the skirt. I have no idea why. Nevertheless it is a beautiful and most unusual silk design.
Interwoven Globe 1500-1800 ed Amelia Peck p 297
What Clothes Reveal by Linda Baumgarten p 37
An Eighteenth Century Chinese Painted Silk Dress by Sara Reiter and Beth A Price.
Of course the most famous Chinese hand painted gown was worn in a portrait of Madam de Pompadour at her tambouring frame, painted by Francois Hubert Drouais (1727-1775). The National Gallery, London. See Kyoto's Fashion p101.
Price: on request
Ref N°: 8331
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