Two outstanding Oriental silk robes added an elegant flourish to a successful sale of vintage and collectable textiles and fashion at Lawrences in Crewkerne on May 15th.

Harriet Cunningham with the Qing robe.

A rare Imperial Chinese priest’s robe or `kashaya` dated from the 16th Century and was lavishly embroidered with individualised figures. “Such robes were reserved for special ceremonial occasions,” explains the firm’s consultant, Harriet Cunningham. “They were also sometimes used as decorative hangings and the `thousand Buddhas` theme is a fundamental tenet of Buddhistic faith.” Measuring 35 by 75 inches (89 x 190cm) and in remarkable condition for its age, the robe had been lying in a drawer in a Dorset manor house for over a century. It had originally been given to a British Army officer during the Boxer Rebellion in the 19th Century. The robe was bought for £7070 by a Chinese Collector following a frenzy of bidding online and on the telephone. The vendor was “delighted with the outcome and grateful to Harriet for spotting it” – some of the proceeds will be spent on re-wiring the house it came from.

In addition, a Qing dynasty formal court robe in glorious rich colour was worked with nine five-clawed dragons chasing flaming pearls amidst cloud scrolls and other Daoist symbols. It lacked collar and cuffs which had led the Dorset vendors to think that its incompleteness would keep the value down. The robe had been inherited from an ancestor and had been in the family for over 50 years and it was taken to Lawrences’ valuation event at the Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre in Bridport out of curiosity. “This superb robe was still being made,” explains Harriet. “The embroidery was impeccable, of Imperial quality and without doubt it would have been executed for a high ranking courtier. The rarity appeal was the result of it not having been turned into a finished robe.” All the interest came from Chinese collectors and the eventual successful bidder was pushed to a remarkable £18300. The vendors are “astounded and startled” by the price.