As imagined by a French designer of luxury goods, who had probably never been to China, the wife of the Chinese emperor Shun Chi embarks on a pleasure boat ride. Three servants attend the empress, one of whom plays a portable keyboard instrument and sings. Other musicians, acrobats, dancing rats, and monkeys entertain her from the landing.
Originally one of a popular, frequently woven set of ten tapestries, this particular subject, "The Empress Sailing," was least common among the series. Only one other surviving example is known.
Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse, commissioned this specific tapestry as part of a set for his country residence outside Paris. Nine tapestries from his set are known to survive, each with borders of the same design, including his monogram LA in the four blue ovals of the border. The Getty Museum owns seven tapestries from this set.