Note card Dragon detail from Altar Frontal
Altar Frontal with Design of Four-Clawed Dragon amidst Clouds and Waves, early 17th century (detail); Chinese, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

During festive occasions in China, altar tables were often draped with decorative textile frontals. The elaborate design of the main panel of this late Ming-dynasty altar frontal is dominated by a four-clawed dragon, indicating that it was made for an imperial prince or a very high-ranking official. The dragon is entwined around a flaming pearl of wisdom as it cavorts amidst stylized multicolored clouds.

The design elements are woven on a red silk background, the color being appropriate for birthday celebrations. This is especially the case for a sixtieth birthday, which marks the auspicious completion of the fifth twelve-year cycle of life in the traditional Chinese calendar. During the early 17th century when this textile was made, life expectancy was much shorter than it is now, and to reach the age of sixty was considered extremely lucky and worthy of special commemoration.

Box of ten 5 x 7" note cards with envelopes

Item #044899