A subversive Chinese connection

[click image to enlarge]

John Everett Millais’s Esther (1865) | Handmade oil painting

The story might be that of a Jewish queen from the Old Testament, but it is the swathe of yellow silk that immediately strikes the viewers. Millais is said to have borrowed the garment from General Gordon, who had been given it by the Chinese emperor following his suppression of the Taiping Rebellion. Turned inside out, the wrong side of the weave creates an abstract pattern.

The painting is now on display at the V&A’s Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 exhibition.


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