Lucy Truman Aldrich, the donor of this gallery and of many of the Museum’s finest Asian textiles, began her collecting career in 1919 during her first trip to the Far East. Miss Lucy visited important dealers in Japan, and streams of Chinese merchants visited her in her borrowed house in Beijing. On each of four successive trips (to China, Indonesia, and India in 1920-21; to India, Japan, and China in 1922-23; India, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia in 1924-25; and to Japan in 1929), she continued to purchase exquisite textiles. Most of the exhibitions on view in this gallery contain at least a few examples from Miss Lucy’s former private collection, much of which was given to the Museum in 1935 and 1955.
In the spirit of Miss Lucy, an intrepid traveler who appreciated fine textile artistry, the Museum continues to add to its holdings with special attention to collecting examples from regions that she did not or could not visit. Also, Miss Lucy primarily collected textiles produced for the secular and religious elites: the luxury goods that have traditionally been valued as “high art.” Today, the products of tribal cultures are considered of equal importance. This exhibition showcases a variety of clothing and textiles of superlative design and workmanship from regions of Burma, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia that were inaccessible - or even unknown - to tourists in Miss Lucy’s day.