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Category: eras

Standing Bodhisattva

18 July, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, medieval | By: xensen

standing bodhisattva, walters art museum, baltimore

While we’re at the Walters Art Museum (see the previous couple of posts), let’s check out this interesting Boddhisattva. As you can see from this detail, the enigmatically smiling figure has an oddly square face and jaw, with very wide eyes. Features such as these, along with the drapery on the shoulders, lead the Walters curators to suppose that it may have been made in what is today Shaanxi province, in the sixth century.

Standing Bodhisattva, 6th century. China, Shaanxi province. Limestone. Acquired by Henry Walters, 1920, 25.5.

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Ganesha

16 July, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, medieval, south asia | By: xensen

Dancing Ganesha

14 July, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, medieval, south asia | By: xensen

dancing ganesha from the collection of the walters art museum, baltimore

Here’s another great dancing Ganesha. This one is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. From Uttar Pradesh, it dates from the ninth or tenth century. I took this photo of a detail of the sculpture when I was visiting Baltimore recently. The label includes this charming commentary:

Like his father [Shiva], Ganesha combines opposing traits: he is a leader of Shiva’s troops, but he is also lovable (there is a bowl of sweets beneath the tip of his trunk). He dances in imitation of his father’s cosmic dance. Ganesha became the lord of beginnings for Hindus and is prayed to at the start of an endeavor. [See early posts on this blog.] Images such as this one were placed in the southern exterior niche of a temple, to be encountered first in a ritual walk around the outside of a temple.

Dancing Ganesha, 9th-10th century, India: Uttar Pradesh, sandstone, gift of John and Bertha Fora, 2004, 25-253.

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The jester Semar

7 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

the clown semar, a rod puppet from java

Many people are familiar with the shadow puppets that are a popular court art of central Java. Rod puppets (wayang golek) are a puppet form that is popular among nonartistocratic audience in western Java and the northern coast of central Java. The puppets perform tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as other Hindu and Islamic texts.

This figure is Semar, a jester. Jesters are a popular element of rod puppet performances. This puppet is part of a large collection at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The is more information about Indonesian rod pupet jesters at the Museum of Folly (and some more images).

The jester Semar, ca. 1800-1900. Ondonesia; Bandung, West Java. Wood cloth, and mixed media. Asian Art Museum; From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.85.29.

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Zhan Wang’s San Francisco

30 June, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, contemporary | By: xensen

Walter Spies

23 June, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, paintings, southeast asia | By: xensen

walter spies

The other day I commented on Deb Clearwaters’s new blog on Bali. Subsequently, I found this collection of paintings by the Russian-born German painter Walter Spies. Spies, who was born in 1895, moved to Bali in 1927. His painting swings between mannerist and expressionist tendencies, but often with overtones of the primitivism of someone like Dounier Rousseau. With decent connections to the international art community, Spies helped to popularize the notion of Bali as an idyllic and exotic Shangri-La. This painting dates from 1929.

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Birth

16 June, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, paintings, south asia | By: xensen

birth by francis newton souza

Indian painting is hot these days. Francis Newton Souza’s Birth (oil on board, 48 x 96 in., 1955), shown above, recently sold for $2,487,931 at an auction at Christie’s London, a record price for modern Indian art.

Souza spent much of his life in London and is the only Indian artist to have a room dedicated to his works at Tate Britain. He was born on April 12, 1924, in Saligaon, Goa, India and died on March 28, 2002 , in Bombay, India. His website is maintained by his estate.

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Photo Wednesday: the Taj Mahal

11 June, 2008 (05:00) | architecture/public, early modern, south asia | By: xensen

Eyes and dolls

5 June, 2008 (05:05) | 20th c, japan, paintings | By: xensen

Conical fritware bowl from thirteenth-century Iran

5 May, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, medieval, west asia | By: xensen

iranian fritware conical bowl

This is a spread from the book I am working on on Persian ceramics from the collection of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (I’m still waiting for final text). The object is a fritware conical bowl painted with “panel style” decoration in underglaze blue and black manganese (The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P1893).

Firt is a ground glasslike substance (I think potash and quartz were the main ingredients) that, added to clay, reduces its firing temperature, which is helpful for applying overglazes. It was used in West Asian pottery to produce a fine white base that imitated the quality of Chinese porcelain.

The bowl dates from the first half of the thirteenth century, and, according to the curators, may be from Kashan in Iran. Poetic verses in white on the black areas express longing for the absence of a beloved.

Photos by Kaz Tsuruta.

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Lotfollah mosque, Isfahan, outside view

1 May, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, early modern, west asia | By: xensen

Lotfollah mosque

30 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, early modern, west asia | By: xensen

lotfolla mosque, isfahan, iran

This spectacular photo from seier+seier+seier’ s photostream shows the dome of the Lotfollah mosque in Isfahan. I have been working on a book on Persian ceramics lately; just today I was placing Isfahan on a map that will appear in the book. Isfahan, now in Iran (about 340 km south of Tehran), was a major city during the Safavid Seljuk period and for a time the capital of Safavid Seljuk Persia.

This will be a cool book — I’ll post some images from it soon — featuring tiles, vessels, bowls, and small statuary. But nothing in it is as grand as this majestic dome, which dates from the early seventeenth century.

Compare this dome’s burst of color and pattern with a sunflower image I posted recently on another of my blogs (buriedmirror.com, devoted to Mesoamerica).

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Endless warriors

29 April, 2008 (05:00) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china | By: xensen

the first emperor's warriors

Can’t get enough of the First Emperor’s terra-cotta warriors? Well, you’re in luck: The Bowers Museum is presenting the largest loan of the terra-cotta figures ever, called Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor. The exhibition opens May 18 and runs through October 12. What a cash cow this discovery has turned out to be!

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Fast Food

28 April, 2008 (05:00) | china, contemporary, paintings | By: xensen

fast food, oil painting by chinese artist kang can

This painting by Kang Can (Fast Food III, 2007, oil on canvas, 35.5 x 31.5 inches) is a good example of Chinese Neo-Pop art (it was shown at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables, Florida earlier this year). In the contemporary Chinese context pop often has a satiric element, aimed at materialism and self-indulgence. At times, as here, the satire can get a little heavy-handed.

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Mu Rui’s medallion

23 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, early modern | By: xensen

gold plaque given mu rui by the yongle emperor, from the najing municipal museum

Recently I’ve been reading Perpetual Happiness by Shihi-Shan Henry Tsai, a biography of Zhu Di, who ruled the Ming dynasty as the Yongle emperor from 1403–1424 (more on this later). Formerly the Prince of Yan, the Yongle emperor usurped the throne from his nephew and moved the Ming capital from Nanjing to his personal power base at Beijing; in 1406 he began construction of what would become the Forbidden City.

This gold medallion, now in the Nanjing Municipal Museum, was buried in the tomb of Ma rui in 1627, during the reign of the Tianqi emperor (1621–1627).; it was discovered during a 1974 excavation near Nanjing. Mu Rui served as the Yongle emperor’s Vice Commissioner-in-Chief, but he was implicated in an attempted revolt. He died in prison in 1609. How did he obtain this plaque? In the forthcoming catalogue of the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition of Ming court arts, He Li offers an explanation:

A court record may provide a clue. In 1408, the Yongle emperor held a banquet to celebrate a successful battle against Annam, in which Mu Sheng was the chief commander (see cat. no. 103). The emperor is said to have awarded to the guest of honor, Mu Sheng, items including the emperor’s own handwritten poem, a jade belt, and a golden plaque (Mingshi, chap. 126, p. 7397); the latter was most likely the surviving medallion here. With the commands possibly engraved by Sheng, it must have been passed down as a family heirloom to later generations. Unfortunately, two hundred years later, its orders were sullied by Mu Rui. Eighteen years after his death, the family was able to conduct Mu Rui’s funeral. By burying the prestigious medallion with him, they announced the end of the legendary name of Mu, which had once been glorified for its support of the Ming court.

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Ming bling

21 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, early modern | By: xensen

ming dynasty lotus ornament from nanjing municipal museum

My mind has been on China’s Ming dynasty (1368–1644) recently because of the show of Ming dynasty court art that is coming up this summer at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. So let’s look at a few examples from this long-lasting dynasty (the last to be ruled by native Chinese).

Shown here is an ornament of nephrite and gold depicting a lotus pond, from the Nanjing Municipal Museum. Egrets and aquatic plants appear beneath two large lotus leaves. According to He Li, there is some uncertainty whether such ornaments, used as hat knobs during the previous Mongol Yuan dynasty, were repurposed during the Ming as covers for vessels.

According to Terese Tse Bartholomew, the combination of lotus and egret is a rebus, or visual pun, signifying a wish for advancement in the governmental meritocracy. This is because “egret” is pronounced lu and “lotus” lian; together the two words suggest yilu lianke, or “May you pass your [civil service] exams all the way.”

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Japanese cloisonné

7 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan, modern | By: xensen

japanese cloisonne vase

Cloisonné is a technique of decorative enameling. Sections of the object to be enameled are defined with wires and areas of color are laid down. The term comes from the French word cloisonner, to partition. Examples of Chinese cloisonné date as far back as the 1200s, I think; perhaps it originated in West Asia and spread along the Silk Road.

The development of cloisonné as a major art form in Japan is traditionally attributed to a daimyo artist named Kaji Tsunekichi of Nagoya in Owari Province (modern Aichi Prefecture), who deconstructed a Chinese example to analyze the technique. In part to satisfy Western demand after the opening of Japan, schools of cloisonné artists were producing large numbers of very fine examples by the end of the century. The period from 1880 to 1910 is sometimes called the golden age of Japanese cloisonné.

Shown is a lidded copper-body cloisonné enamel vase with a dragon motif from the collection of the V&A. Probably from Nagoya, it is dated to 1880-1890 (museum no. M.205-1917).

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Huge tomb find in China’s Shaanxi Province

2 April, 2008 (05:00) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china | By: xensen

The discovery near Xi’an of a Qin Dynasty tomb group is believed to be the largest found in China; it comprises 604 tombs.

“I was astounded by the sheer number of tombs,” said Sun Weigang, a researcher with the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeological Research. “We know Shaanxi is rich in cultural relics, with over a thousand tombs unearthed every year. But we have never found so many in such a small area”.

Most of the tombs are of ordinary people and do not contain particularly valuable objects, but are of enormous interest to archeologists researching the social life of the period. A vast collection of pottery and bronze ware has been unearthed including cauldrons, pots, jars, axes and swords, as well as more than 200 complete human skeletons.

Archaeologists hope the discovery of the tombs will help them locate the site of the ancient Qin Dynasty city of Liyi.

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via Dream Art Gallery

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