Abduction of Helen (China)

'The Abduction of Helen', embroidered and painted hanging made in China on the basis of an European pattern. 'The Abduction of Helen', embroidered and painted hanging made in China on the basis of an European pattern. Copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 1979.282.

'The abduction of Helen' is the name given to a large hanging now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It probably dates to the early seventeenth century, and was likely made in China (Macau?). It measures 363 x 480 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 abduction of Helen of Troy, or Helen of Sparta, which marked the start of the Trojan War. 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 Prophecy of Calchas' and 'The Sacrifice of Polyxena'.

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

WV

Last modified on Saturday, 25 February 2017 15:45