Through Tracy Hansen’s role in Contemporary Art within Hong Kong we had special preview tickets to Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales. This would be an opportunity to see some amazing traditional and contemporary works close up, as well as meet Artists and Gallery Representatives.
I spent a lot of time within Dragons and Silk from the Forbidden City a display featuring works from Teresa Coleman Fine Arts. Here there were antique silk textiles and costumes from the Imperial Court of China. She had a beautiful collection of Formal Court Robes from The Forbidden City, including Dragon Robes (The Chi-fu) and Women’s Ceremonial Court robes (Women’s Chao-fu) that highlighted the Twelve Symbols of Authority.
The Dragon Robes’ overall design, in content and form, represents a diagram of the universe. The robe’s lower edge included a wave border represented by diagonal stripes edged above with rolling waves. Four peaks symbolize the earth and mountains with the four elements (air, earth, fire and water) each represented by a dragon. Dragons on a robe are a symbol of authority; good fortune and good luck as well as a symbol of the nature male vigor and vitality. The robe’s neck is the gate of Heaven with the symbolism only complete when the robe is worn; the wearer’s head represents the Heavens. The robe also includes cranes (for longevity) and the ‘Ji’ character (luck) together meaning ‘hope for life’.
The Twelve Symbols of Authority (from the Ming Dynasty) arranged on the Imperial Robes include: The Sun, The Moon, Constellations, Mountains, Pair of Dragons, Pheasant, Fu Symbol, Axe, Water Weeds, Liberation Cup, Flames and Millet. The symbols have specific form and meaning and are arranged in order around the neck, waist and knees. Together they make a complete message that the Emperor is blessed with a mandate from Heaven to govern over all creation.
The robes were displayed in a way that allowed close up experience. It was incredible to see the meticulous embroidery; intense colors and detailed patterns. One could gain an appreciation for the traditional embroidery and textile techniques used in these ancient times including peking knot stitch (da zi meaning ‘making seeds’ the small knots resemble seeds), couching and brocade as well as the brilliant colors achieved through natural dyes and pigments such as Indigo (Blue), Gardenia Flowers (Yellow) and Cinnibar (Vermillion).
While at the Sotheby’s Preview Tracy also introduced me to painter Takahide Komatsu represented by Tezukayama Gallery, Japan; and Fiona Ho, Gallery Manager of The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong.