[Detail: 19th-century Chinese plain weave ramie with embroidered designs. V & A collection.]
This whisper-soft curtain was created in China for export to an American family around 1830 to 1840, nearly six centuries after Venetian Marco Polo journeyed along the Silk Road and shared his legendary travelogue that piqued Westerners' curiosity about Asia. But the delicately embroidered piece -- yet another beautiful mash-up of Chinese design and European tastes -- is a legacy of that earlier age of exploration and trade.
If you want to delve deeper into luxe Mongol silks and other remarkable embroidered Asian textiles produced and traded between the 8th and early 15th centuries, The Met's out-of-print exhibition catalogue, When Silk Was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles, can be accessed digitally for free courtesy of the museum. (Keep your eyes peeled for the short floral boots and amazing 11th- or 12th-century kesi aka silk tapestry with dragons in fields of flowers on a plumy ground.)