Embroidery, applique, couched metallic thread

It is difficult to know what this was originally, but despite its compromised condition, it is clear that it was once a luxury item. Aside from the paper-backed silver thread outlining the upper crane, everything else is silk, the ground material is dyed with safflower, and a great deal of planning and expertise went into the execution of the piece.

The two cranes are a study in contrasts. One is embroidered, the other is appliqued; one crane is only outlined, the other’s body is thoroughly filled in with a completely different material; one is seen from the front; the other is shown in profile.

Particularly interesting in the embroidered crane is the masterful way the embroiderer has used different types of thread to accentuate the different parts of the crane’s body. Thick highly twisted threads indicate large wing feathers in bold separate strokes, very fine lightly twisted threads evoke the fluffy feathers at its thighs, and thick but lightly twisted threads are used for its tail feathers.

Even the scaly skin on the legs is skillfully suggested.

The appliqued crane is also done with consummate skill. Its white body, in highly twisted chirimen crepe silk, is probably glued to a fine paper backing. A few of the tail feathers, which are not bordered in metallic thread, can be seen barely rising off the material, but are not unraveling.

Some of the very fine black threads have disappeared.  These may have been fixed with an iron mordant, which in time would have destroyed the silk.

In the tail feathers, the black threads were used to help anchor the applique, but their practical purpose is not immediately apparent since they are also an integral part of the design.