Chinese Noblewomen's Python Robe
【 命婦蟒袍 】
Qing dynasty | Mid 19th century
Ceremonial python robe 【mangpao / 命婦蟒袍】for a wife of a high-ranking Han Chinese mandarin of the Qing court. Only a few of this specific style survived, and this opulent robe is considered the most sophisticated example ever published.
The front and back are adorned with 2 grand front-facing dragons, accompanied by 2 descending phoenixes and 2 ascending profile dragons right underneath. There are 2 more smaller front-facing dragons on the shoulders and another 2 profile ones on the outer sleeves. That brings to a total of 10 four-clawed dragons, 4 phoenixes, and 4 carps transforming into dragons in the turbulent sea.
The background is richly decorated with 8 Buddhist precious emblems along with ruyi sceptre clouds and bats (symbol of prosperity).
Twisted silk threads on a purblish red 【紫紅色】 satin background, lined with moonlight blue 【月白色】silk.
Daoguang - Tongzhi period.
Wedding portrait of Tang Jifen (曾纪芬) in 1875, China.
Buddhist emblem (宝盖)
Lishui embroidery at the bottom hem
Descending phoenix and ascending profile dragon, along with a flying carp amidst the waves.
Moonlight blue (月白色) silk lining
Buddhist emblem (宝盖) with ruyi scepter clouds and bats
A ceremonial python robe 【蟒袍】for a wife of a high-ranking Han Chinese mandarin of the Qing court. Only a few of this specific style survived, and this opulent robe is considered the most sophisticated example ever published. Han Chinese aristocratic women were allowed to retain their Ming Chinese customs, hence their court robes are full of Ming-dynasty essence except for the lishui 【立水】pattern (diagonal stripes of water) at the bottom hem, which was an later influence from the Manchurian imperial attires.
I came across this robe at an auction in the UK exactly 2 days after I finished this book 清代服裝 (Costumes of the Qing dynasty) by Wang Jinhua 王金華, which interestingly includes another robe of the very same style but lower quality. One of the most unexplainable coincidences in my life! I posed with the robe and those pages of that book in photo 1.
Auction in Alresford, The United Kingdom
Excellent condition, no frays, no fading, only some small stains and restorations.
王金华, & 王哲. (2018). 中国传统服饰 : 清代女子服装・首饰 (第1版. ed.). 中国纺织出版社.
Photograph 1: 1875年，曾国藩女儿曾纪芬与聂缉椝的结婚照