Chinese Silk Robe, ca. 1662

Value (2005) | $15,000 Insurance$20,000 Insurance

APPRAISER:
I understand that this is not your favorite piece of artwork.

GUEST:
No, I find the dragon is very ugly and kind of frightening.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
I love all these cloud motifs and the ocean below.

APPRAISER:
Did you grow up with this piece? Is it a family heirloom?

GUEST:
It was bought by my parents in Peking, China, in the '20s.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
And they brought it home, and they stuffed it in a drawer and brought it out for costume parties and things like that. And then when I inherited it, I stuck it in a drawer, too.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
And I have no idea who made it, how old it is or its value.

APPRAISER:
Okay. Well, actually, keeping it in a drawer has preserved some of these beautiful colors. We have some very bright greens and bright blues and bright yellows. Textiles tend to fade in light. And so having it in darkness for so long has really helped preserve the color. This robe is Chinese.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
And it was made in the Kangxi period, which is 1662 to 1722.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
And it was actually made in the earlier part of that period. The reason why I can tell that is that this dragon is fat and robust. His face is very broad, and also the stripes down here are very wide. And the later the robes get, the more narrow the stripes become, and the more thin and sinuous the dragon becomes, too. The other interesting thing about this robe which makes it rare and unusual is that it's on a black ground. And to dye silk textile black was very, very difficult. It was easier to do it a blue-black or reds or other colors. But black is a very difficult color to actually control when they were dyeing it. So that really makes this robe rather unique. It was a winter robe, and this was obviously a wealthy customer who bought this robe and wore it. Because having, again, the black dye, it's very expensive to do. The robe does have a few condition issues, but something this old tends to have condition issues. There's a little rip up here and a few stains and whatnot. But overall, for this time period, it's in pretty good shape.

GUEST:
Good.

APPRAISER:
And as far as conservation goes, you might want to keep it in the dark closet, perhaps not folded up in a plastic bag, though. (laughs) This robe is probably worth in the $15,000 to $20,000 range.

GUEST:
Whoo.

APPRAISER:
Yeah. (laughs) It's very rare, it's very unusual, and it's very beautiful.

GUEST:
That's wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Doyle New York
New York, NY
Appraised value (2005)
$15,000 Insurance$20,000 Insurance
Event
Providence, RI (June 18, 2005)
Form
Clothes
Material
Cloth, Silk
November 03, 2008: In this segment, appraiser Marley Rabstenek mentions that this beautiful Chinese silk robe would likely have been worn by someone wealthy. What she didn't say at the time was that its wearer would actually have been someone even more eminent: a person who lived or worked within China's Imperial Palace. Of the 17th-century robe Rabstenek adds, "It is a rare piece of exceptional quality; a type worn during the Emperor Kangxi's reign."

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