Cantonese Opera Stage Curtain

About this object

History of use

Beds appear frequently in Cantonese opera, represented by a narrow platform with a cover and bed curtains. They most often are used in scenes representing weddings, although the actors do no more than sit on the bed and are not shown lying down. During the years 1900-1930, Cantonese opera costumes and stage fittings were decorated with silver-plated brass discs and then with round mirrors, together with gold and silver thread. Sequins made of gelatin were first used on Cantonese opera costumes in the 1930s. Heavily-sequined costumes were popular in the 1950s-60s, with the sequins then being made of plastic. Sequins have continued to come and go in popularity since that time. The rounded upper edges on bed covers are shaped to fit bolsters, although cushions are now often used. Silk bed sets in general predated those made of synthetic fabrics.

Cultural context

Cantonese Opera Performance

Physical description

Curtains of white silk sewn to form an arch shape with horizontal upper edge of white cotton to which blue-green Chinese characters are appliquéd. At the center of the curtain set are appliquéd two disks of white silk, each with a Chinese character in blue-green sequins. Below them is an image of a butterfly in copper-coloured sequins. The lower edge of the arch-shaped curtain has a row of blue-green fringe. Behind the arch is a rectangular panel, and there are vertical panels with cotton backing attached to the sides. All are decorated with hummingbirds and bunches of grapes and vines, all executed in blue-green, copper, pink, and gold sequins. There are two red oval stamps with Chinese letters at back of curtain top.