Exhibitions > Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition
Twelve Masterpieces of Chinese Art, of Porcelain, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Stone, from the 10th century BC to the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735).
Middle to Late Western Zhou period, 10th - 9th century BC
This bronze hu vessel, most probably originally a wine container, is remarkable for its decoration of cicadas cast in the round, combined with wave-like peaks. Its inscription indicates that it was commissioned by one of the Dukes of the Rui state of the Middle Western Zhou period. It was unearthed sometime in the late nineteenth century and belonged, in the early twentieth century, to the legendary collector and connoisseur Viceroy Duan Fang (1861-1911), a high official serving the Guangxu Emperor and his powerful mother the Dowager Empress Cixi.
Han period, 206 BC - 220 AD
This figure represents a shaman (wu) or immortal (xian or yuren) with mask-like face and exaggerated features, wearing a cape and tunic composed of feathers. The figure is made, exceptionally, of cast and beaten gold worked with extraordinary delicacy. Other comparable examples are only found in bronze.
Late Eastern Zhou period, 3rd century BC
This 'ear-cup', so known for the handles at the sides which are thought to resemble the ears on a face, is a survival of a very labour intensive and highly specific glazing technique that seems to have been abandoned in succeedinig centuries. The vivid blue, yellow, brown and white elements that form the pattern - essentially dots and C-shapes - are built up of layers of glaze fired to just short of their melting point so that their form is preserved.
Northern Wei period, early 6th century
This sculpture is of an apsaras, or heavenly being in a lively pose, wearing the floating garments that denote it would have been positioned as 'flying', carved out of the high wall or ceiling of a cave temple. It was almost certainly carved for one of the Northern Wei Buddhist cave temples at Longmen where work began in the very late fifth century.
Diameter of bowl 24.3cm, Diameter of cover - 24.5cm
Tang period, late 8th - early 9th century
This 'parcel-gilt' - i.e. partly gilded - silver bowl and cover displays exquisite chased workmanship depicting lotus, pomegranate and other plants. It is one of only 8 such bowls known to exist with a cover and the only one now outside a museum. All were apparently unearthed in Eastern Mongolia in 1930. This example formerly belonged to the famous Swedish collector Carl Kempe.
Northern Song to Jin period, 12th - 13th century
This dish is a superb example of one of the most refined and sought after ceramics of the Song period - the creamy white Ding wares of North China. It is decorated with an exceptionally crisp moulded deisgn of a dragon pursuing a flaming pearl amongst clouds. Three other dishes - two in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and one in the Shanghai Museum - appear to be almost identical and may have emanated from the same mould.
Yuan period, mid - 14th century
This is a truly exceptional example of 'blue and white', where diluted cobalt oxide is painted on to porcelain, glazed and then fired. It was first introduced, into China, during the Yuan period and has been incalculably influential ever since. This particular example, as high an expression of the painter's art as if it had been ink on silk, is also techincally interesting. It combines painting in blue on a white background as well as white on a blue background and also incorporates moulded elements in relief as part of the design. Most unusually, one of the lotus petal panels inside the dish incorporates a Persian inscription.
Ming dynasty, Chenghua mark and of the period 1465-1487
This 'palace' bowl exemplifies why Chenghua porcelain is often viewed as the summit of ceramic perfection. The ware is creamy white, covered with a thin, smooth glaze that is like satin to the touch. The deisgn is often deceptively simple, as in the present example, the brushstrokes overtly painterly. There appear to be only 8 other 'palace' bowls painted with the same flower design, inside and out, still in existence.
Ming dynasty, Jiajing reign mark and of the period 1522-66
'Imperial yellow' glaze such as is found on the present ewer and cover, was in favour throughout the Ming dynasty. This particular ewer, from the middle Ming period, appears to be a very rare survivor. Only one other Jiajing mark and period ewer of the same shape but glazed in iron-red - in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing - appears to have been published.
Qing dynasty, Yongzheng mark and of the period, 1723 -1735
This bowl demonstrates perfectly the fineness and delicacy of overglazed enamelling achieved during the Yongzheng reign was on the Imperial throne. The pinks, greens, browns and reds are applied after the bowl has been glazed and fired and are fired again at a lower temperature. The subject here, bats circling round peaches, is a classic combination full of auspicious associations.
Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign mark and of the period, 1723-1735.
In an exhibition of masterpieces, perhaps this vase stands out among the others. Again, it was made during the Yongzheng reign, however it has probably a closer link to the Emperor than the 'peach' bowl (catalogue number 11). The dragon vase was decorated in the enamelling workshop in Beijing, rather than in the south in Jingdezhen. It was decorated in a colour, puce, one of the 'foreign colours' or falangcai that had only recently been perfected in China after instruction by the Jesuits at the Imperial court. From the records it seems very likely that this was presented personally to the Emperor for his approval and that he commended it.
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Monday to Friday 9:30 - 5:30
During EXHIBITION: Saturday 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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