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Prophecy of Calchas (China)

'The prophecy of Calchas', embroidered and painted hanging made in China on the basis of a European pattern. 'The prophecy of Calchas', embroidered and painted hanging made in China on the basis of a European pattern. Copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 50.97.2.

'The prophecy of Calchas' is the name given to a large hanging now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It probably dates to the late sixteenth century, and was likely made in China (Macao?). It measures 375 x 498 cm and is made of a cotton ground material with silk and gilt paper wrapped embroidery thread (Japanese thread) and with painted decorations.

The embroidery shows the famous episode of the prophecy of Calchas, which instructed the Greek leader Agamemnon to sacrifice his daugher, Iphigeneia. The pattern itself must have been based on an European example, but some aspects, like the phoenixes and stylised waves are very Chinese in style. The faces and limbs of some of the figures were painted directly onto the cotton. Curatorial information suggests that the Chinese craftsmen were trained in Japan by Jesuits.

See also the entries on comparable hangings, from the same series, 'The Abduction of Helen' and 'The Sacrifice of Polyxena'.

Metropolitan Museum of Art online catalogue (retrieved 7 January 2017).

WV

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 19:56