Eske­nazi to host Au­tumn Ex­hi­bi­tion of early Chinese art in Lon­don

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE ON SATURDAY -

From 3 to 25 Novem­ber 2016, Eske­nazi Ltd, which is widely rec­og­nized as one of the world’s lead­ing gal­leries for Ori­en­tal works of art will present an ex­hi­bi­tion of 24 works of early Chinese art at their gallery at 10 Clif­ford Street, Lon­don. High­light­ing the cre­ative bril­liance of Chinese ar­ti­sans over a 2,500year pe­riod from the late Ne­olithic era (circa 2000 BC) to the Tang dy­nasty (618 AD - 907 AD), the ex­hi­bi­tion will in­clude a num­ber of highly im­por­tant pieces in bronze, gold, sil­ver, jade and bone, all sourced from pri­vate col­lec­tions.

The most di­verse ex­hi­bi­tion of early Chinese art to be held at Eske­nazi since 2003, it in­cludes a core of an­cient bronze ves­sels, art­works cov­eted by col­lec­tors since the ad­vent of an­ti­quar­ian schol­ar­ship in the Song Dy­nasty (960-1279 AD). Pre­vi­ous own­ers of works in the ex­hi­bi­tion in­clude renowned col­lec­tors from the 19th and 20th cen­turies, in­clud­ing Luo Zhenyu, Bernard Beren­son, Adolphe Sto­clet and Lord Cun­liffe, with more re­cent prized prove­nances of the 21st cen­tury in­clud­ing the Sze Yuan Tang and the Al Thani col­lec­tions. Many of the works have also been in­cluded in notable mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tions through­out the 20th cen­tury, in­clud­ing at the Bri­tish Mu­seum and Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum in Lon­don, the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the Stock­holm Na­tional Mu­seum and the Palazzo Du­cale in Venice.

A high­light of the ex­hi­bi­tion is a rare ar­chaic bronze wine ves­sel (zun) from the early Western Zhou pe­riod (11th–10th cen­tury BC) shown at a fa­mous ex­hi­bi­tion of Chinese art at the Palazzo Du­cale in Venice in 1954. A mag­nif­i­cent ex­am­ple of a Western Zhou rit­ual ves­sel, orig­i­nally placed on an al­tar with an en­sem­ble of ves­sels of other forms, it has an il­lus­tri­ous prove­nance, al­ready recorded in Chinese lit­er­a­ture of the 19th cen­tury as in the col­lec­tion of Pan Zuyin (1830-1890), an im­por­tant of­fi­cial of the late Qing dy­nasty, who owned at least 400 ar­chaic bronzes. The in­te­rior of this ves­sel is cast with a seven-char­ac­ter in­scrip­tion which reads Ya Qi Yi

zuo Mu Xin yi (Ya Qi Yi made this rit­ual ves­sel in hon­our of his mother Xin). A much-pub­lished zun of iden­ti­cal form, with dif­fer­ent in­scrip­tion, is in the Cleve­land Mu­seum of Art.

The ma­jor­ity of pieces in the ex­hi­bi­tion are dec­o­rated with an­i­mals or an­i­mal mo­tifs, in­clud­ing dragons, bears, birds and other beasts, both styl­ized and nat­u­ral­is­tic. Recog­nis­ably of an­i­mal in­spi­ra­tion, although highly styl­ized, are the masks and dragons that form the dec­o­ra­tion of a dif­fer­ent type of wine ves­sel (you) of the Shang or early Western Zhou pe­riod (11th cen­tury BC)). Also recorded in the 19th cen­tury when owned by the scholar Luo Zhenyu (18661940), it was first pho­tographed and pub­lished al­most a cen­tury ago, in 1917.

Fur­ther rare and strik­ing pieces in­clude a gilt-bronze dragon head from the Western Han pe­riod (206 BC - 9 AD), re­cently on loan to the Bri­tish Mu­seum, thought to have been the ter­mi­nal of a cen­tral shaft of a chariot or car­riage; a gilt-bronze bear in­laid with turquoise and agate stones from the Han pe­riod (206 BC – 220 AD) one of a set of sup­ports for a bronze ves­sel or item of fur­ni­ture; and a jade stand­ing fig­ure, Tang Pe­riod (618–907 AD). A more mys­te­ri­ous ob­ject in the ex­hi­bi­tion is an ar­chaic jade notched disc from the late Ne­olithic or Shang pe­riod (2000–1500 BC), mea­sur­ing 33cm in di­am­e­ter. Re­mark­able for its very large size, this and smaller sim­i­lar discs have prompted much spec­u­la­tion as to their func­tion although no con­sen­sus has yet been reached.

Ar­chaic Bronze Wine Ves­sel; Early Western Zhou pe­riod, 11th-10th cen­tury BC

Ar­chaic Bronze Wine Ves­sel and Cover; Shang or Early Western Zhou pe­riod, 11th-10th cen­tury BC

Gilt-Bronze Agate and Turquoise Bear; Han pe­riod, 206 BC – 220 AD

Gilt-bronze Dragon Head Ter­mi­nal; Western Han pe­riod. 206 BC to 9 AD

Jade Stand­ing Fig­ure; Tang pe­riod, 618-907

Ar­chaic Jade Notched Disc; Late Ne­olithic, Shang pe­riod; 2000-1500 BC

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