This striking and unusual piece of embroidery was created by a member of the Miao, an ethnic minority group native to southern China.
The Miao in general are known for their distinctive headdresses and skill in embroidery. Often featuring colorful geometric patterning, this ornamentation is lavished on items such as baby carriers and caps, as well as women’s skirts, shirts, aprons, and purses. While the original function of this panel is unknown, its graphic impact is undeniable. The embroiderer has almost entirely covered the indigo-dyed cotton ground with a dense pattern of hexagonal parallelogram-shaped compartments made up of smaller triangles in bronze silk executed in satin stitch, then contained these shapes in a honeycomb-like matrix of white cotton embroidery. Although the overall pattern is orderly and precise, the creator of this piece intentionally deviated from this rigid format by introducing areas of asymmetrical embroidery at the perimeter, augmenting the textile’s lively charm.