Imperial Noblewoman’s Summer Surcoat

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Daoguang reign, 1821-1850
Silk gauze with silk and metallic thread embroidery
H x W: 135.3 x 145.7 cm (53 1/4 x 57 3/8 in)
China, Suzhou, Hangzhou, or Nanjing
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by an anonymous donor
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Costume and Textile


China, couching, counted thread embroidery, Daoguang reign (1821 - 1850), dragon, gauze, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

From about 1930 to 1990
Private collector, California, from about 1930 [1]

Sale, Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, “Fine Oriental Works of Art,” November 2, 1990, lot 3119 (ill.): “Blue Ground Gauze Robe with Dragon Medallions, 19th century” [1]

From 1990 to 1992
Linda Wrigglesworth, Chinese Costume and Textiles, London, purchased through Kathy Judkings at Butterfield & Butterfield on November 2, 1990 [2]

From 1992
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from Linda Wrigglesworth on March 10, 1992 [3]


[1] According to Linda Wrigglesworth, Chinese Costume and Textiles, London, Butterfield & Butterfield’s representative Dessa Goddard stated that the robe was consigned in the 1990 Butterfield’s auction by an elderly California woman who had had the robe in her possession for approximately sixty years, see Memo from J. Stuart to M. Beach, March 30, 1992, in the object file.

[2] See memo cited in note 1.

[3] See Invoice issued by Linda Wrigglesworth, Chinese Costumes and Textiles, to Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, March 10, 1992, in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Linda Wrigglesworth
Butterfield & Butterfield founded 1865


Surcoats such as this were worn by women of the imperial household, including consorts and wives of high-ranking imperial nobles. The simple construction of the coat is ideal to display pictorial insignia of rank, such as the dragon roundels here. Both the total number of roundels and the number of the dragons' claws indicate the wearer's rank at court. The five-clawed dragons seen here are a special imperial privilege. Coats such as this were worn over floor-length court robes to add greater formality to the costume.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 138, fig. 5.13.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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