Chinese hand-embroidered silk shawl, c.1900-1920
Fine hand embroidery was an art form in China before Marco Polo arrived there in the 13th century. Chinese export goods were still popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As interest waned after the 1920s, so did the quality of hand work. Modern copies produced in China today are of inferior quality.
Made from substantial-weight ivory silk crepe, the shawl is exquisitely hand embroidered with large bouquets of flowers in each corner. The high relief satin-stitch embroidery showcases the soft muted shades that are the gift of Time to Art; hence the subtle, luminous hues of this antique original. There is a 20"-border of hand-knotted silk fringe.
The the brilliant floral pattern celebrates the virtuosic use of color: the glorious burgundy-red roses with petals of carrot-orange and tan; and the surrounding steel-blue leaves edged with silver-gray. As the eye moves towards the center, the colors seem to die away. As the eye moves back towards the corner, the colors are rekindled by turns into a rare and flickering fire, taking on the shimmering brilliance of a peacock's tail.
Chinese export shawls were favorite evening accessories of the 1920s flapper. This beauty would be stunning over a slender evening slip dress; or drape the shawl over your couch where you and your friends can enjoy the embroidery art—the essence of connoisseurship.
You might even take a leaf from Anna Pavlova's book. The greatest ballerina of all time, she was also a fashion idol in Paris before WWI. A ballerina who danced with Pavlova in the Ballets Russes reminisced that Pavlova used to drape a large shawl "in the Spanish manner...They took the place of dresses for her. It became very popular, and many imitated her."
The condition is excellent.
It measures 106" square, including the fringe border.