A Brief History on Chinese Dragon Robes and Textiles, the China Trade in Massachusetts and how it got started
|Kangxi Period (1662-1722), Chinese Kesi Chair Covers|
The above comment was not a knock on Canton Wares, but they are pretty common and were shipped here by the boatload, literally in wooden barrels. As an aside, I can still recall my own grandmother's basement had several of these barrels, some were open and stuffed with straw and packed with dishes to tureens, others were still sealed. When a piece broke during use, she would toss it out and simply go down and get another from a barrel. Despite this being in the 1960's, many of them were not marked "CHINA" meaning they came over before 1896...and by the 1960's were still as yet not all open and being used.
Now onto the Chinese Robes and textiles. Why so many ended up here in New England and particularly along Boston's North Shore is for several reasons. Its a true confluence of of politics, wealth, trade and disaster.
Chinese Ming Dynasty Imperial RobeChina Trading Ships from Salem, MA. During the late 18th and into the19th C., hundreds of ships departed Salem each year for Asia. They would work their way around the world buying and selling at many ports along the coast of Europe, Africa, India and then onto China. In a sense these trading ships worked as floating stores, buying in one port and selling in another as they progressed. Later these ships would return to Salem loaded with goods from Asia, including silk, spices, tea, porcelain and cotton. Among all the things brought back tea was by far the largest commodity in value, by 1860 it accounted for over 60% of the cargoes. Along with it all came bolts of silk and silk needlework. The China Trade Period was truly an amazing time.
- Chinese Silk is best in the world, in the 18th and 19th C. as a fabric it was held in particularly high esteem by everyone, including foreigners and was highly sought by people of means for furnishing houses as drapes and upholstery as well as some clothing. Well to do American ladies were not immune to it's charm. It was a very exotic material after all, produced by spiders! So in came silk to the North Shore of Boston by the trunk full, quite literally, for many years.
Chinese Fur Lined Winter Court Robe,
Qianlong Period, 18th C.
Qianlong Period Court Robe, 18th C.
Dragons on Yellow Silk
|Blue Silk Ground with Gilt Metallic Thread,|
19th C. Chinese Court Robe.
So check your attics and back hallways, you never know what might be tucked away and long forgotten.
Feel free to email or call with any questions about your own Chinese Silks, Porcelains or Jades or their values.
Thank you for visiting ~ Peter Combs
Gloucester, MA 978-283-3524