The 2010 opening gala of the Cannes Film Festival was graced by the presence of actress Fan Bingbing. She appeared on the red carpet wearing an evening dress designed by one of the most prominent Chinese haute couture designers – Laurence Xu.
Her gold-yellow outfit dazzled the audience with its long train decorated with embroidery which featured a motif depicting foaming waves. Above them, among colourful clouds, floated a pair of dragons playing with a flaming pearl. On one side, the upper asymmetrical part of the garment revealed the actress’ shoulder, while the sleeve on the other side was finished off with a folded cuff in the shape of matixiu – a horse’s hoof.
In designing this unique dress, Laurence Xu referred to the traditional robes of the last imperial Dynasty – the Qing (1644-1911). He was inspired by longpao – the classic dragon robe. This outfit was worn by the emperor, his immediate surroundings and a throng of officials, hence its many variations. A yellow robe decorated with five-clawed dragons was reserved for the Chinese emperor.
The designer coined a poetic name for the dress, calling it The Auspicious Cloud of the Oriental, which refers to the propitious motifs that adorn it.
A replica of the dress is housed in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which kindly provided its photographs.
At the moment, the dress is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York at the exhibition titled China Through the Looking Glass, where it is presented along with creations by 20th and 21st-century designers such as Paul Poiret, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen,who draw on the impressive culture of the Middle Kingdom.
The collection of the National Museum in Krakow contains several longpao dragon robes. You are warmly invited to view them closely at our exhibition, where you can admire their beauty, decipher their iconography and marvel at the colours of silk and golden embroidery details.
Let’s become delighted and inspired…
Beata Pacana – art historian, adjunct, Head of Department of Far Eastern Art, National Museum in Krakow, co-curator (with Beata Romanowicz) of the exhibition In the Realm of the Dragon. Chinese Art in the Collections of the National Museum in Krakow.
Photo of Beata Pacana by Mirosław Żak, Photography Studio, National Museum of Cracow.
The exhibition “In the Realm of the Dragon” can be visited in the Main Building of the National Museum in Krakow until 5 July. Events accompanying the closing of the exhibition – guided tours, workshops, concerts.