Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties
"...an object's decoration and form tend to indicate the purpose for which it was intended, whether it be ritual, decorative, or utilitarian."
The cloisonné enamel technique was most likely introduced into China during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). Although the earliest Chinese cloisonné pieces bearing a reign mark were made during the Xuande period (1426–1436), the exhibition will include a few pieces that introduce a new attribution from the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. This controversial attribution, recently documented by specialists and curators from the Palace Museum, Beijing, is a major contribution to Cloisonné scholarship.
Several factors, ranging from the unreliability of reign marks to a dearth of information about Chinese workshops, make it very difficult to date cloisonné works with accuracy. Therefore, three aspects of Chinese cloisonné production have been selected as guidelines for the exhibition—decoration, form, and intended function—since an object's decoration and form tend to indicate the purpose for which it was intended, whether it be ritual, decorative, or utilitarian. The motifs that occur most often are considered in all their various meanings within the context of the period during which the objects were produced. The exhibition attempts to answer such questions as how, why, and for whom these enamels were produced, and how attitudes toward this technique changed during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The Bard Graduate Center and the Musée des Arts décoratifs, in cooperation with Yale University Press, have published a full-color catalogue that incorporates advances in scholarship since the publication of the last important work in the field in English more than twenty years ago. Several essays by prominent scholars and catalogue entries are accompanied by reproductions of the exhibition objects, related illustrations, maps, a glossary, and a bibliography. The essays include Terese Tse Bartholomew on "Hidden Meanings," Claudia Brown on "The Influence of Painting," Rose Kerr on "The Influences of Form and Decoration from Chinese Antiquity," Lu Pengliang on "The Role and Function of Cloisonné During the Ming and Qing," Béatrice Quette on "Form and Decoration," Odile Nouvel-Kammerer on "Nineteenth-Century French Cloisonné Enamels," Zhang Rong on "Imperial Commissions," and Susan Weber on "The International Reception," among others. This is the only publication that discusses cloisonné of such fine quality from such an extensive number of public collections and for the first time includes western and Chinese scholars.
From January 26 through April 17, 2011, the Bard Graduate Center presents Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The exhibition, a collaboration between the BGC and the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris, is the first to bring cloisonné from this renowned French collection together with objects from important public collections in the United States. Modern Cloisonné Manufacturing Technique video by Han Vu.
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