Chinese - Informal Coat, about 1850-1900


Informal Coat for a Woman (Ch'ao Kua) with Designs of Bats, Butterflies, and Peony and Chrysanthemum Sprays, about 1850-1900

Cut voided silk velvet, 107 x 128.3 cm (42 1/8 x 50 1/2 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Entered Isabella Stewart Gardner's collection at an unknown date.


Adolph S. Cavallo. "An Introduction to the Textile Collection at Fenway Court." Fenway Court (1981), pp. 12, 15, fig. 12. (as Chinese, dated 1850-1900)
Adolph S. Cavallo. Textiles: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1986), pp. 204-203, no. 191, ill.

Rights and reproductions

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Women’s dress during the Qing Dynasty was strictly regulated, with laws stipulating that only upper class women could wear fine clothing like this coat from the 19th century. During Isabella's lifetime, the coat was hidden away in the Short Gallery secretary, where she kept many costumes and textiles. The voided velvet pattern features large sprays of peonies and chrysanthemums, two flowers that symbolize vitality and feminine beauty. When paired with the chrysanthemums, the butterflies sprinkled throughout the coat represent beauty in old age.