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Chinese Textiles

From the Addis Bequest

16th June - 29th August 1997

This was the first exhibition of the collection of Chinese textiles bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by the late Sir John Addis, KCMG (1914-83). Sir John, who was a distinguished diplomat and scholar, bequeathed his well-known collections of Chinese furniture and Chinese ceramics to the Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museum respectively. His collection of Chinese textiles has not previously been on public display and so is less widely known.

Sir John Addis had early connections with China through his father, Sir Charles Addis, who was the head of The Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. Sir John himself served three diplomatic terms in China between 1947 and 1974. The textiles in the exhibition were mainly collected by Sir John during his diplomatic service in Asia.

The majority of the textiles in the exhibition are twentieth century, but also include earlier items, such as the set of fine embroidered roundels depicting the Eight Immortals and a pair of elbow cushions in imperial yellow silk. The exhibition is dominated by bolts of glossy silk damask in jewel-like colours, occasionally bearing inscriptions. On some pieces the configuration of the patterns makes clear that the silk was intended for traditional robes. Also displayed were a number of textiles from ethnic minority groups within China, providing contrasts both in style and technique.

This exhibition was sponsored by HSBC Holdings PLC