(Chinese, mid-1100s-early 1200s)
Handscroll; ink and color on silk
Third Section: 27.6 x 92.3 cm (10 7/8 x 36 5/16 in.); Second Section: 27.6 x 92.3 cm (10 7/8 x 36 5/16 in.); First Section: 26.7 x 98.6 cm (10 1/2 x 38 13/16 in.)
John L. Severance Collection 1977.5
From right to left, this handscroll illustrates stages in the production of silk, from the raising of silkworms to the weaving of silk cloth. Liang Kai was a court artist who was active from about 1201 to 1204 at the Imperial Painting Academy in the city of Hangzhou, a major silk weaving center from that time to the present day.
Women prepare silkworm eggs, placing them on trays that are stored vertically on a frame.
In the house at the right, the silkworms are placed on trays with mulberry leaves on which they feed. In the top center section, spinning frames for the silkworms are being prepared. Eventually, the worms will be placed among the twigs on the frames to spin cocoons. At the left, cocoons are being placed in baskets.
Four scenes are represented. Starting on the right, cocoons are being weighed while a child and three adults working at a table sort cocoons and place them in baskets. In the next scene, some cocoons have been placed in water heated by a fire to loosen the ends of the filaments that are later combined to form a silk thread. The man seated on a bench in front of a silk-reeling machine picks up several filaments to form a silk thread that is being wound on the reel. The third scene shows the process of spooling. The final scene, on the left, shows silk being woven.
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