PEM E49250, Chinese embroidered silk shawl (Early to mid 19th century)

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Artifact Information

Pale yellow Chinese embroidered silk shawl. Early to mid-19th century. Imported from Guangzhou, China. Chinese crepe shawls such as this, with a ground of "bird-of-Paradise yellow" or "stem yellow" on which cordons of flowers are embroidered are mentioned in 1828 in the Ladies' Monthly Museum of London as "elegant novelties in fashion"[1].

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA USA. E49250.

Image of the embroidered Chinese silk shawl. photo by B. MacLaren

Summary of results

The major components of the plant are protoberberine alkaloids: palmatine and jatrorrhzine. No berberine was detected. The dyeing source was probably huangteng. [2]

HPLC profile

Absorbance at 350nm (mAU)

Identified compounds

palmatine UV-Vis


jatrorrhizine UV-Vis


Compound RT (min.) MW UV/vis Other
palmatine 37.1 351 348,428 major component
jatrorrhizine 34.4 337 348,428


[1] Worth, S.(1986) "Embroidered China crepe shawls: 1816-1863; Dress 12:43-54.

[2] Xian Zhang,Karina Corrigan, Bruce MacLaren, Mimi Leveque, and Richard A. Laursen, Characterization of Yellow Dyes in Nineteenth Century Chinese Textiles. Studies in Conservation 52, 211-220 (2007).