Robes with an apricot-yellow ground were reserved for the crown prince, his consorts and the crown princess. The example at Woolley & Wallis, embroidered with five-clawed dragons, bats holding peaches above waves and Buddhist emblems, was from the late Qing period and uncut. Estimated at £3000-5000, it sold at £17,000.
A Qing robe offered by Lawrences of Crewkerne on May 15 was also unfinished. Worked to front and back with typical emblems to a brown silk ground, it lacked embroidery to both collar and cuffs. It had been been in one family for more than 50 years and came for sale via a Lawrences’ valuation event at a Bridport garden centre. Estimated at £500-800, it made £15,000.
“This superb robe was still being made,” said the firm’s consultant, Harriet Cunningham. “The embroidery was impeccable, of imperial quality and without doubt it would have been executed for a high-ranking courtier.”
A profitable cottage industry in China repairs and remakes imperial robes. Both jifu are likely to be finished when they return to Chinese soil.
A saffron silk priest’s robe or kashaya with ‘thousand Buddhas’ embroidery, dating from the 16th century, sold at £5800 (estimate £1500-2000). In good condition for its age, it had been given to a British army officer during the Boxer Rebellion and had since been stored in a drawer in a Dorset manor house.