About this artwork
The earliest archaeological finds of silk in China comprise very small fragments of fabric that are datable to the 4th and 3rd millennia B.C. Silks with woven patterns are rarely preserved but can be documented about one thousand years later, primarily through ghost-like imprints on jade implements as well as bronze vessels and weapons. Before burial, these prestigious ceremonial objects were evidently wrapped in fragile but fugitive silk fabrics.
Preserved near the edge of this jade blade is a three-dimensional pseudomorph (“false form”) of a squared, tightly woven pattern, whose organic material has completely disintegrated and been replaced by minerals that duplicate the original textile structure. Under high magnification, this pattern displays a slight “Z” twist in the original filament thread, as characteristic of reeled silk that is simply woven (“plain weave.”).
Such indirect but clearly preserved evidence of Shang dynasty silk is extraordinarily rare. The collective expertise of the Art Institute’s conservation scientists and scholars of Chinese textile history and technology have facilitated the identification of the material seen here.
- Dagger-Blade (ge)
- 1300 BC–1000 BC
- 19.6 × 4.1 × 0.3 cm (7.7 × 1.6 × 0.1 in.)
- Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection