Subject:Re: Fine Chinese Embroidery Art Panel Needing General Info. Date, Etc. Thanks!
Posted By: Bill H Sat, Aug 22, 2020
I'd like to second Robert's observations. This version of the Peking Knot is very akin to the 'couching' technique, which comprises the gilt thread segments of this same panel. It's my understanding that both techniques have been done in modern times using mechanical sewing machines.
The 'Forbidden Stitch' is something rather suspect in some circles, including mine, of having been invented by Western entrepreneurs, who fabricated it in Chinese silk, so to speak, to enhance their marketing during the 19th and early 20th century with tales of young women being blinded by the excruciating fineness of the stitchery. This story reminds me of the better-documented case of British porcelain-makers who concocted a tall tale of star-crossed lovers on a bridge to boost sales of their flow-blue chinoiserie plates to a primarily female market circa Victorian times.
I've actually seen some knot stitchery that deserves the label of fine, but I've also found that technique referred inappropriately as 'Kesi' (緙絲) in the same breath as "Forbidden Stitch" enough to think of the latter term as another name for Kesi besides the more appropriate 'Tapestry Weave'. In its construction, the tapestry weave would have been a blinding job for someone with bad eyes working in poor light to begin with, because it is much finer than what's seen on the average knot-stitched panel, often is given a finished look on both sides and in large panels is assembled in separately woven sections. Conversely, other couching and embroidery techniques tend toward just a single finished side.
In case mention of the "Forbidden Stitch" herein causes any head-scratching on the part of those like myself who've seen it used more broadly over the years, here are some images of the Chinese Kesi technique about as good as it gets in an approximately 2.4 by 7 foot framed panel that was used as a 'Chair Frontal' for honored guests at birthday and other auspicious celebrations. In 2018, Sotheby's sold a panel virtually identical to the top half of this one for US$8,125 in one of its online events.