From the Exotic to the Mystical: Textile Treasures from the Permanent Collection

Mar 20, 2013

Emperor and attendants amid red and gold decorations.

The Audience of the Emperor, 1722–1723. France, Beauvais. Wool, silk; tapestry weave. 125 x 198 inches. Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Collection. 59.49.1

SAN FRANCISCO (March 20, 2013)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to announce From the Exotic to the Mystical: Woven Treasures from the Permanent Collection, an exhibition of more than 40 objects drawn from the Museums’ extensive holdings of textile arts. This selection represents 15 centuries of textile arts and includes finely detailed English embroideries, playful Spanish laces, elaborate French ecclesiastical vestments, and many others. The majority of works in this exhibition have never before been seen on public display.

These textiles illustrate the continuing human interest in exploring foreign realms, both geographic and metaphysical. Allegorical imagery serves as the overarching theme of the exhibition, which is further organized into four distinct sections: exoticism, mythology, religious symbolism, and the fantasized animal world. A tapestry depicting an Asian monarch believed to be the Kangxi Emperor, a lace featuring a beast part serpent and part bull, and even a napkin bearing a representation of Apollo, all display the impulse to transcend ordinary circumstances, and to enter the more abstract spheres of history, religion, and myth.

From the Exotic to the Mystical showcases in particular many true masterpieces from the Museums’ European holdings. Examples include the renowned tapestry An Audience for the Emperor, woven in France around 1722 at the height of the Chinoiserie craze, and a full set of liturgical vestments from the reign of Louis XIV that rank among the most brilliant achievements of French needlework in the age of the Sun King. Among the objects from outside of Europe is a fragment—probably of a tunic—from 6th century Egypt, featuring an array of mermaids.

This exhibition offers a glimpse into the breadth of the Museums’ textile collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive of its type in the United States, which includes more than 12,000 textiles and costumes spanning two and a half millennia and representing cultures from 125 countries. From the Exotic to the Mystical also celebrates the legacy of Anna Gray Bennett, a champion for the study of European textile traditions. Ms. Bennett, who died in 2012, was the founding curator for textile arts at the Museums.

Visiting \ de Young
Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

Museum Hours
Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm, last ticket 4:30 pm, Friday (March 29–November 29, 2013) 9:30 am–8:45 pm, last ticket 8 pm. Closed Mondays.

$10 adults; $7 seniors (65 and above); $6 students with current ID; $6 youths 13–17. Members and children 12 and under are free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month.

Additional fees apply for special exhibitions.

Tickets can be purchased on site and online. Group ticket reservations are available by emailing

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young is housed in a copper-clad landmark building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas; a diverse collection of costumes and textiles; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor’s Beaux-Arts style building designed by George Applegarth is located on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Images from all exhibitions and museums available upon request.

Media Contacts:
Erin Garcia \

Arlo Crawford \

Clara Hatcher \