This is part of an ongoing series in which our curators introduce artworks that have recently gone on display. The prep crew just finished putting up the last of the pieces for the Fall Chinese rotations. As usual, the process was a pleasure. He Li did her usual inspired choice of pieces to be included and in writing the labels. In gallery 16 on the third floor is an embroidered hanging depicting an immortal paradise. Bright and colorful, it is likely to have once been part of a set of four. In the Song to Qing gallery (gallery 17) we now have three textiles on view. Visible as our visitors come off the elevator is an 18th century wrapper for a painting or calligraphy scroll. The yellow silk and gold dragons are clear evidence this was meant for imperial consumption. Denise Migdail, our textile conservator, mentions she particularly likes the cord attached to this piece: “A marvelous tour de force of reversible figured silk.” With its ivory clip, it would have served to fasten the wrapper around the work of art. The next piece on view is a bright red woman’s robe with floral designs in tapestry weave. The third is a dragon robe of very fine gauze weave decorated with gold dragons among clouds. The collar and the sleeve ends appear to be original to the piece, rare since these parts of a robe receive the most wear and are very often replacements.
We were also able to replace four lacquers in the Song to Qing gallery. Li has chosen two pieces to go in the large case with the Song dynasty tea ceramics. The large red tray is my personal favorite – it has no surface decoration – just wonderful and very subtle carving of the corners and the feet. Imagine presenting those marvelous black glazed ceramic tea wares on such a tray! The other lacquer newly on view in this case is a plate in the shape of a chrysanthemum blossom-with 59 petals, another a tour-de-force. Two mother-of-pearl inlaid trays are also newly on view in other cases in the gallery.
The works in the Chao Shao-an gallery compliment Joseph’s installation of Qi Baishi. There are six works by master Chao and a marvelous hanging scroll of a praying mantis on a banana tree by Fang Zhaoling. Given to the museum by Avery Brundage in 1960, this is an early work by Fang completed when she was Chao Shao-an’s student.
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