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March 30, 2010

Forbidden Beauty

Chinese Embroidery

In the mid-19th century, 3,000 female servants and concubines lived in Beijing's Forbidden City—and for most of the time they were bored out of their minds. So they spent the hours waiting for the Emperor's summons stitching the most intricate, time-consuming embroidery they could conceive: the "forbidden stitch." Although it was likely named after its imperial home, legend holds that the stitch was banned after many women who practiced it went blind. The Forbidden Stitch: Chinese Embroidery, opening March 17 at Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, offers two dozen exquisitely made items collected by Connecticut residents during the Qing dynasty, from imperial dragon robes to Peking wedding costumes.