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Five-Clawed Dragon
Dragon robes (ji fu吉服, lit. auspicious dress) originated in the Liao dynasty (907-1125), and were regulated as court dress under the Ming (1368-1644). The Qing dynasty (1644-1911) continued this usage, and standardized the nine-dragon design (the ninth dragon was positioned beneath the robe’s overlap). The dragon robe was worn with an ensemble of hat, surcoat,...
Art of Handwork
Cynthia Trope discusses the intricate metalwork and lacquer work in this Jean Dunand vase.
Welcome to the Jungle
This vibrant mural design by Charles Baskerville for A Jaguar Hunt in a Mexican Jungle presents an imagined vision of a lush, foreign environment. Part of a group of studies for the pool house (called the Mexican Pavilion) at the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Estate, the eight-hundred-square-foot mural transported Long Island residents and guests to a...
“It screeched, it bellowed… Raucous? Yes. Crude? Undoubtedly.”
In celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, Elizabeth Broman discusses selections from the Smithsonian Design Library's collection of jazz sheet music.
Coors Porcelain Company Vase
Even though the stamped marking on the underside of this vase reads “Coors Golden Colorado Pottery,” its coloring is not that of a pale ale. Rather, the exterior is painted with a cream-toned glaze, while its interior is coated in a light teal. This choice of matte glazing further calls attention to the stepped form...
Afternoon at the Museum
Little is known about this dress-weight cotton fabric, which arrived at the museum in a padded envelope with no return address. It was probably an inexpensive “novelty print” intended for the home-sewing market. This piece had been previously made up as a dirndl skirt, which requires very little shaping, so there is an uncut rectangular...
Calvin S. Hathaway: Museum Director and War Hero
In last month’s Cooper Hewitt Short Story, the exuberant personality of Robert Winthrop Chanler unfolded in a large gift of illustrated books to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library. May’s Short Story celebrates the curatorial vision that brought a professional edge to the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, that of Calvin Hathaway. Margery...
Hand-Beaten for Hand-Tossed Salad: Kalo Shop Salad Servers
Founded by Clara Barck Welles in 1900, the Kalo Shop was one of the most successful workshops of the Arts and Crafts movement. The name “Kalo” derives from the Greek word for beauty and the motto of the Kalo Shop was “Beautiful, Useful, and Enduring.”[1] The output of the Kalo Shop lived up to this...
Metals and Materials
This striking drawing, titled Altar Mensa for the Borghese Chapel in the Santa Maria Maggiore, is by a lesser known but influential architect, Mario Asprucci the Younger.  Using water color paint to achieve vibrant illustrations of various, colored marbles and metals, Asprucci captures the architecture’s sumptuous materials and allegorical themes. The Borghese Chapel was originally...