Enfilade

Exhibition | The Sun King and the Prince of Orange

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 14, 2023

Adam Frans van der Meulen, Landscape with King Louis XIV at the Capture of Maastricht on 30 June 1673, 1673–1690, oil on canvas, 72 × 92 cm
(Venlo: Limburgs Museum, L24496)

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Opening this summer at the Limburg Museum in Venlo (65 km northeast of Maastricht). 2023 marks the 350th anniversary of the fall of Maastricht—which itself followed in the wake of the ‘Rampjaar’ (Disaster Year) of 1672. The museum was recently recognized with a 2022 International Design Award in graphic design for its campaign, “Limburgs Museum: Van ós / For Everybody,” by Total Design.

The Sun King and the Prince of Orange: Battle for the Meuse Valley
De Zonnekoning en Oranje: Slaags aan de Maas
Der Sonnenkönig und Oranien: Kämpfe an der Maas
Limburgs Museum, Venlo, 10 June 2023 — 7 January 2024

“I believe a spectacular event is going to unfold in front of our eyes.”
–King Louis XIV, shortly before the Siege of Maastricht

June 2023 will mark the 350th anniversary of the conquest of Maastricht by Louis XIV, the French Sun King. The city’s reputation as one of the best-fortified cities on the continent caused all of Europe to stand in disbelief at the end of the thirteen-day long military campaign. The victory was proudly showcased in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles as well as on the Porte Saint-Denis in Paris. In 1676, the Prince of Orange’s attempt to reconquer the city for the Dutch Republic failed. As a result, French soldiers and administrators remained in Maastricht until 1679. What motives drove the actions of the two sovereigns? What did this region signify to them? And how did their actions affect the people? These questions lie at the heart of the grand exhibition The Sun King and the Prince of Orange: Battle for the Meuse Valley.

In collaboration with Service Historique de la Défense, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Rijksmuseum and Paleis het Loo.

 

Exhibition | A Japanese Bestiary

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 13, 2023

Co-organized with the Edo-Tokyo Museum, this exhibition brings together more than a hundred ukiyo-e prints, paintings, and everyday objects to explore the relationship between humans and animals in Japan during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Un bestiaire japonais: Vivre avec les animaux à Edo-Tokyo, XVIIIe–XIXe siècle
Maison de la culture du Japon, Paris, 9 November 2022 — 21 January 2023

La gentillesse avec laquelle les Japonais traitent les animaux surprend les premiers Occidentaux qui se rendent dans l’archipel. Les liens entre les humains et le monde animal sont cependant plus complexes comme en témoigne une remarquable réplique d’une paire de paravents de 1634 représentant un panorama détaillé d’Edo et de ses faubourgs. Outre des scènes avec le shogun poursuivant cerfs et sangliers, ou chassant au faucon, on y remarque des montreurs de singes, des chiens errants, des bœufs de labour, des chevaux sacrés…

Dans la section suivante sont présentés les différents rôles des animaux, en lien avec la vie de la noblesse guerrière, des paysans et des commerçants. L’établissement d’Edo comme capitale des guerriers explique une forte présence de chevaux militaires dans les premiers temps. Avec la paix durable, le nombre de chevaux de trait, soutien de la vie citadine, se met à croître. Les bœufs sont utilisés pour le transport des marchandises à Edo ainsi que pour le labour dans les zones rurales à l’extérieur de la ville. Les activités culturelles connaissent un essor important et on s’entoure volontiers d’animaux de compagnie : petits chiens et chats, rossignols et cailles, poissons rouges, ou encore grillons et criquets dont on apprécie le chant. Nombre d’estampes et d’ouvrages sur la façon de s’en occuper sont publiés.

Dans les zones périphériques d’Edo où vit une abondante faune sauvage, la noblesse guerrière pratique régulièrement la chasse. On chasse au faucon des grues, des oies et des canards. Organisées par le shogun, les grandes chasses au cerf visent les cervidés, sangliers, lièvres et faisans. Certains animaux sauvages sont associés à des croyances religieuses, tel le renard, connu pour être le messager d’Inari, dieu des moissons. Les habitants d’Edo, ville riche en collines, rivières, et ouverte sur la mer, vivent profondément en lien avec la nature.La vie des animaux sauvages est un élément familier, étroitement lié aux croyances religieuses et aux rites saisonniers.

À partir du début du XVIIe siècle, Edo s’urbanise rapidement et la population devient friande de nouvelles attractions. Des animaux rares, notamment les paons et perroquets provenant de Chine ou de Hollande, sont exposés dans des lieux spécifiques, ancêtres des zoos, avec des boutiques proposant nourriture et boissons. Très vite, la mode des animaux exotiques connaît un boom sans précédent. Avec l’entrée dans l’ère Meiji (1868–1912), période de modernisation et d’ouverture à l’Occident, le Japon construit des installations sur le modèle occidental, tels que zoos et hippodromes.

À l’époque Edo, la puissance financière nouvelle de la classe commerçante stimule la naissance d’une véritable culture citadine et le raffinement des objets du quotidien: les motifs décoratifs représentant des animaux évoluent vers une plus grande liberté de conception et des variations plus riches. Vers la fin du XIXe siècle, la symbolique des motifs animaliers commence à s’estomper et l’accent est mis de plus en plus sur le côté «kawaii» des animaux de compagnie.

Exhibition | Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 11, 2023

Now on view at Cooper Hewitt–and please note the upcoming programming described below. . .

Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York City, 1 October 2022 — 29 January 2023

Curated by Julia Siemon

Colored drawing of a design for a tripod flanked on either side by Roman standards.

Michel Angelo Pergolesi, Ornament Design, Tripod and Roman Standards, 1776, pen and ink, brush and watercolor over graphite on laid paper; 48 × 34 cm (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; gift of an unknown donor, 1980-32-1443; photo by Matt Flynn).

Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain showcases fanciful drawings and prints by Michel Angelo Pergolesi (died 1801), an Italian-born artist whose professional specialty, in his words, was “the ornaments of the ancients.” In the early 1760s, Pergolesi moved to London, where he helped popularize a neoclassical style that employed ornament inspired by artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome. Brilliantly hued watercolors from Cooper Hewitt’s collection highlight Pergolesi’s skill in transforming ancient relics—what he called “curious Things”—into lighthearted decorative motifs. Although his name is now largely forgotten, these rarely seen works call attention to Pergolesi’s legacy, to the Beaux-Arts neoclassical decoration of Cooper Hewitt’s historic mansion (built 1897–1902), and to the ways in which ornament of all kinds enlivens our built environment.

The exhibition is made possible with support from the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund. It was organized by Julia Siemon. Exhibition design is by Field Guide Architecture and Design with graphic design by Kelly Sung.

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Left: Pietro Santi Bartoli, Gli antichi sepolcri, overo Mausolei Romani et Etruschi, trovati in Roma & in altri luoghi celebri…, Rome, 1697, plate 84 (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute Library, 82-B2112). Middle: Copy of the Portland Vase, 1850–60, manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, stoneware (Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Mrs. Frederick F. Thompson, 1915-30-1; photo by Matt Flynn). Right: Michel Angelo Pergolesi, Ornament Design with Portland Vase and Two Cameos, 1776, pen and ink, brush and watercolor over graphite on laid paper (Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Unknown Donor, 1980-32-1463; photo by Matt Flynn).

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The Antique in Print: The Classical Past and the Visual Arts in the Long 18th Century
Online, Wednesday, 18 January 2023, 1.00pm ET

Classical reliefs, sarcophagi, frescoes, coins, and gems were frequently copied and readapted by Renaissance artists from the 15th century onwards. Yet it was only in the age of the Enlightenment that a selection of them was canonized, illustrated, and diffused in Europe through antiquarian publications. Scholars and travelers on the Grand Tour viewed antiquity through the lens of these books. Their printed illustrations offered a range of images and symbolic references for artists, decorators, and architects whenever they wanted to quote the Antique in their creations. Join us as Dr. Adriano Aymonino explores how the print culture of the long 18th century shaped the visual and allegorical language of Neoclassicism. At the same time, he will contextualize Michel Angelo Pergolesi’s drawings and popular set of prints (Designs for Various Ornaments, 1777–1801). Dr. Julia Siemon, curator of Cooper Hewitt’s Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th Century Britain will provide a brief overview of the exhibition at the start of the program.

The program will feature a lecture with a slideshow presentation followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. It will be recorded and available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel a week following the lecture. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email CHEducation@si.edu or let us know when registering.

Adriano Aymonino is Director of Undergraduate Programmes in the Department of History of Art at the University of Buckingham and Programme Director for the MA in the Art Market and the History of Collecting. He has curated several exhibitions, such as Drawn from the Antique: Artists and the Classical Ideal, held at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London in 2015. His book Enlightened Eclecticism was published by Yale University Press in June 2021 and has won the 2022 William MB Berger Prize for British Art History. He is currently working on a revised edition of Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny’s Taste and the Antique (2023); and on a critical edition of Robert Adam’s Grand Tour correspondence, which will be hosted on the Sir John Soane’s Museum website (2024). He is also co-editor of the series Paper Worlds published by MIT Press and associate editor of the Journal of the History of Collections.

Julia Siemon is Assistant Curator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Prior to joining the Getty, she was Assistant Curator of Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where she organized Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain. Previously, as Assistant Research Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, she organized The Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery (2017–18) and was editor and co-author of the related volume. Her other publications include contributions to The Medici: Portraits and Politics 1512–1570 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2021) and A Royal Renaissance Treasure and its Afterlives: The Royal Clock Salt (British Museum Research Publications, 2021). She holds a PhD from Columbia University (2015), where she specialized in Italian Renaissance painting.

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Tour with Exhibition Curator Julia Siemon
Cooper Hewitt, New York, Friday, 20 January 2023, 1.30pm ET

In this guided tour with exhibition curator Julia Siemon, visitors will encounter fanciful drawings and prints by Michel Angelo Pergolesi, an Italian-born artist whose professional specialty, in his words, was “the ornaments of the ancients.” The tour is free with reserved museum admission; limited space is offered on a first-come basis.

Exhibition | Weng Family Collection: Art Rocks

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 9, 2023

Scholar's rock

Scholar’​s rock, Qing dynasty, stone (Boston: MFA, Gift of the Wan-go H. C. Weng Collection and the Weng family, in honor of Weng Tonghe).

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Now on view at the MFA Boston:

Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Art Rocks
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 26 March 2022 — 3 May 2023

In China, rocks in their natural form are objects of great aesthetic appreciation. As far back as one thousand years ago, serious art collectors and critics acquired and competed for rocks with the same passion they afforded great works of painting and calligraphy.

Ink painting depicting a large rock formation, trees, and a building.

Jin Nong (1687–1764), Elegant Ink (Landscapes after Ancient Masters) / 龍梭墨妙畫冊 (金農), Qing dynasty, 1757, ink on paper, 27 × 35 cm (Boston: MFA, Gift of the Wan-go H. C. Weng Collection and the Weng family, in honor of Weng Tonghe, 2018.2828.1).

Rather than celebrating superficial beauty, collectors exalted imperfection for its expressive possibilities and sought rocks that were not symmetrical or smooth or pretty. They used terms like strange, weird, and awkward as complimentary descriptions of the rocks they most preferred. The humble rock became, like an abstract sculpture, a medium to explore forms and textures, and to express one’s inner being. In the minds of serious connoisseurs, rocks, as microcosms of mountains—or even the entire universe—were meditations on life itself.

From 2018 to 2021, Wan-go H. C. Weng (1918–2020) made the largest gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy to the MFA in the institution’s history, comprising more than 390 objects acquired and passed down through six generations of his family. Rocks were integral to the Weng family’s art collection, as subjects of paintings and as art objects themselves.

Yellow glass in the shape of a rock on a wooden stand

Glass in the shape of a rock / 北京造湖石形料器, Qing dynasty, 18th century, 7 inches (17.8 cm) high (Boston: MFA, Gift of the Rosenblum Family, 2001.221).

This exhibition features more than 25 works from the gift as well as the MFA’s collection that explore how rock aesthetics have permeated architecture, landscape design, and painting styles in China for a millennium. Visitors can envision themselves in paintings of gardens where colossal rocks loom over a scholar’s studio, or scenes of fantastical caves where artists gaze in awe at mysterious rock formations. And rocks of all kind—large and small, weird and imperfect—are on view throughout the gallery, welcoming viewers to ponder, explore or, like the ancient poets, venerate.

This is the third in a series of three exhibitions celebrating the landmark donation made by Wan-go H. C. Weng, a longtime supporter of the MFA who, until he passed away in 2020 at the age of 102, devoted his life to the preservation, study, and promotion of China’s cultural heritage.

More information is available from Asian Art.

Exhibition | Jean Bardin (1732–1809)

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 6, 2023

Banner image for the exhibition

Jean Bardin, Tullia Driving Her Chariot over the Body of Her Father, detail, 1765, oil on canvas, 114 × 146 cm
(Landesmuseum Mainz)

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Now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Orléans:

Jean Bardin (1732–1809), le feu sacré
Le musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans, 3 December 2022 — 30 April 2023

Curated by Frédéric Jimeno

Le musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans présente la première exposition rétrospective consacrée à l’un de ses grands hommes : le peintre Jean Bardin (1732–1809).

Book coverL’exposition Jean Bardin (1732–1809), le feu sacré réunit pour la première fois le corpus de l’artiste. Des tableaux provenant de cathédrales et églises françaises (Bayonne, Mesnil-le-Roi, Charmentray…), récemment restaurés, seront présentés aux côtés d’œuvres provenant des grands musées français (Louvre, Nancy…) et européens (Albertina à Vienne, Mayence…) ainsi que de collections particulières. L’un des temps forts sera le cycle monumental des Sept sacrements, réalisé entre 1780 et 1791 pour la chartreuse de Valbonne et aujourd’hui conservée à la chartreuse d’Aula Dei à Saragosse. Cette série monumentale est exposée en France pour la première fois.

Cette exposition, initiée en 2016 avec Frédéric Jimeno, spécialiste de l’artiste et commissaire scientifique de l’exposition, est le fruit de plusieurs années de recherches. Elle révèle un artiste parmi les principaux de son temps, dans les premières lueurs du néoclassicisme. Le catalogue de l’exposition constitue la première monographie du peintre et propose également une synthèse sur la naissance des institutions artistiques orléanaises sous son égide. Jean Bardin (1732–1809), le feu sacré déploie ainsi un parcours allant de ses débuts dans l’atelier de Jean-Baptiste- Marie Pierre jusqu’à sa mort, qui laisse en héritage les fondements du musée des Beaux-Arts actuel qui ouvrira en 1825. Cette exposition est par ailleurs l’occasion d’évoquer l’entourage familial du peintre, à commencer par la figure de sa fille, Ambroise- Marguerite (1768–1842), artiste formée par son père, seconde femme peintre orléanaise connue après Thérèse Laperche (1743–1814), elle-même révélée au public en 2020 dans le cadre de l’exposition Jean- Marie Delaperche.

Mehdi Korchane, ed., Jean Bardin (1732–1809), le feu sacré (Paris: Les éditions Le Passage, 2023), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-2847424973, €38.

Additional information and more images can be found here»

Exhibition | Mirror of the World

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 5, 2023

Now on view at the Musée du Luxembourg:

Mirror of the World: Masterpieces from the Dresden Cabinet of Curiosities
Miroir du monde: Chefs-d’œuvre du Cabinet d’art de Dresde
Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 14 September 2022 — 15 January 2023

Curated by Claudia Brink

The exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg brings together around one hundred remarkable artworks and objects collected between the 16th and 18th centuries by the powerful Prince-electors of Saxony. During a period marked by the struggle for imperial power between the Electorates of the Holy Roman Empire and the courts of Europe, this dazzlingly rich collection demonstrates the political power of the Prince-elector. Featuring objets d’art, instruments and scientific books, natural materials and ethnographic objects, the Kunstkammer or ‘cabinet of curiosities’ was the first European collection to open to the general public, who viewed it as a place of knowledge and learning. This exhibition places an emphasis on the artistic quality and provenance of the works, which not only reflect the many global relationships and cultural exchanges, but also the Euro-centric world view they embody. A few historical objects are arranged so as to mirror works by contemporary artists, putting these historic collections into perspective through the key issues of our time.

The exhibition is curated by Claudia Brink, curator at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) / Dresden State Art Collections.

L’ E X P O S I T I O N

Introduction
1  Étudier le Monde, Images du Ciel et de la Terre
2  La Vogue des Cabinets Curiosités, Une Quête de la Rareté
3  L’Ivoire, Un Matériau d’Intérêt Mondial
4  Naturalia, l’Art, et la Nature
5  Visions du Monde, Formation de Stéréotypes
6  La Porcelaine, Symbole des Échanges entre l’Orient et l’Occident
7  L’Art de l’Empire Ottoman, Mode et Fêtes de Cour

The exhibition guide (in French) is available as a PDF file here»

Exhibition | Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 4, 2023

Mummy bandage of Aberuait, linen, Egypt, Ptolemaic Period 332–30 BC (Paris: Musée du Louvre / photo: Georges Poncet). This bandage was a souvenir from one of the earliest ‘mummy unwrapping events’ in the late seventeenth century, where attendees would witness a mummy’s unwrapping and receive a piece of the wrapping linen, preferably inscribed with hieroglyphs. 

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From the press release (July 2022) for the exhibition:

Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt
The British Museum, London, 13 October 2022 — 19 February 2023

Curated by Ilona Regulski

Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt, a major exhibition at the British Museum, marks one of the most important moments in our understanding of ancient history: the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The exhibition explores the inscriptions and objects that helped scholars unlock one of the world’s oldest civilisations 200 years ago.

At the exhibition’s heart is the Rosetta Stone, amongst the world’s most famous ancient objects and one of the British Museum’s most popular exhibits. Before hieroglyphs could be deciphered, life in ancient Egypt had been a mystery for centuries with only tantalising glimpses into this forgotten world. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, with its decree written in hieroglyphs, demotic, and the known language of ancient Greek, provided the key to decoding hieroglyphs in 1822—a breakthrough that expanded the modern world’s knowledge of Egypt’s history by some 3,000 years.

Book coverThis immersive exhibition brings together over 240 objects, including loans from national and international collections, many of which will be shown for the first time. It will chart the race to decipherment, from initial efforts by medieval Arab travellers and Renaissance scholars to more focussed progress by French scholar Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) and England’s Thomas Young (1773–1829). The Rosetta Stone is on view alongside the very inscriptions that Champollion and other scholars studied in their quest to understand the ancient past. The exhibition also features stunning objects that highlight the impact of that breakthrough.

Star objects include ‘the Enchanted Basin’, a large black granite sarcophagus from about 600 BCE, covered with hieroglyphs and images of gods. The hieroglyphs were believed to have magical powers and that bathing in the basin could offer relief from the torments of love. The reused ritual bath was discovered near a mosque in Cairo, in an area still known as al-Hawd al-Marsud—‘the enchanted basin’. It has since been identified as the sarcophagus of Hapmen, a nobleman of the 26th Dynasty.

Rarely on public display, the richly illustrated Book of the Dead papyrus of Queen Nedjmet is over 3,000 years old and more than four metres long. A recitation of the texts demonstrates the power of the spoken word, with ritual spells there to be pronounced. The papyrus is presented alongside a set of four canopic vessels that preserved the organs of the deceased. These were dispersed over French and British collections after discovery, and this is the first time this set of jars has been reunited since the mid-1700s.

Among the exceptional loans to the exhibition is the mummy bandage of Aberuait from the Musée du Louvre, which has never been shown in the UK. It was a souvenir from one of the earliest ‘mummy unwrapping events’ in the 1600s where attendees received a piece of the linen, preferably inscribed with hieroglyphs. The exhibition also brings together personal notes by Champollion from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and by Young from the British Library. A 3,000-year-old measuring rod from the Museo Egizio in Turin was an essential clue for Champollion to unravel Egyptian mathematics, discovering that the Egyptians used units inspired by the human body.

The striking cartonnage and mummy of the lady Baketenhor, on loan from the Natural History Society of Northumbria, was studied by Champollion in the 1820s. In correspondence with colleagues in Newcastle, Champollion correctly identified the inscription on the mummy cover as a prayer addressed to several deities for the soul of the deceased only a few years after he cracked the hieroglyphic writing system. Baketenhor lived to about 25–30 years of age, sometime between 945 and 715 BCE.

From love poetry and international treaties, to shopping lists and tax returns, the exhibition reveals fascinating stories of life in ancient Egypt. As well as an unshakeable belief in the power of the pharaohs and the promise of the afterlife, ancient Egyptians enjoyed good food, writing letters, and making jokes.

Many people in ancient Egypt could not read or write so language was enjoyed through readings, recitations, and performances. The exhibition includes digital media and audio to bring the language to life alongside the objects on display. As part of the interpretation, the British Museum has worked with Egyptian colleagues and citizens from Rashid (modern day Rosetta), with their voices featured throughout the exhibition.

Ilona Regulski, Curator of Egyptian Written Culture at the British Museum, said: “The decipherment of hieroglyphs marked the turning point in a study that continues today to reveal secrets of the past. The field of Egyptology is as active as ever in providing access to the ancient world. Building on 200 years of continuous work by scholars around the globe, the exhibition celebrates new research and shows how Egyptologists continue to shape our dialogue with the past.”

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said: “Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt marks 200 years since the remarkable breakthrough to decipher a long-lost language. For the first time in millennia the ancient Egyptians could speak directly to us. By breaking the code, our understanding of this incredible civilisation has given us an unprecedented window onto the people of the past and their way of life. I would like to express my gratitude to our long-term exhibition partner BP. Without their support, the British Museum would not be able to present such exhibitions, allowing visitors to discover the art, culture and language of ancient Egypt through the eyes of the pioneering scholars who unlocked those ancient secrets.”

Ilona Regulski, Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt (London: The British Museum, 2022), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-0714191287 (hardback), £35 / ISBN: 978-0714191294 (paperback), £20.

Exhibition | Kimono Style

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 3, 2023

From the press release (1 June 2022) for the exhibition:

Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 7 June 2022 — 20 February 2023

Curated by Monika Bincsik, with Karen Van Godtsenhoven

Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection traces the transformation of the kimono from the late 18th through the early 20th century, as the T-shaped garment was adapted to suit the lifestyle of modern Japanese women. The exhibition features a remarkable selection of works, including a promised gift of numerous modern kimonos from the renowned John C. Weber Collection of Japanese art, as well as highlights from The Costume Institute’s collection. More than 60 kimonos, including men’s and children’s wear, are displayed alongside Western garments, Japanese paintings, prints, and decorative art objects.

“This outstanding exhibition presents the kimono from a transnational perspective, highlighting the artistic conversations between Japan and the West, and the garment’s continued impact on designers around the world,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We are extremely grateful to John C. Weber for his promised gift, his loans to this exhibition, and his long-term support of Asian art at The Met.”

青竹色地輪宝瑞雲模様唐織, Noh Costume (Karaori) with Dharma Wheels and Clouds, Edo period (1615–1868), mid-18th century, twill-weave silk with silk supplementary weft patterning, 158 × 136 cm (John C. Weber Collection).

Monika Bincsik, the Diane and Arthur Abbey Associate Curator for Japanese Decorative Arts, said, “The kimono has served for centuries as a tableau on which to describe and record the histories of women. The variety of patterns and colors and the often-changing trends reveal much about Japanese culture and society when we shed light on the circumstances of the owners of these intricate garments and their production techniques. For many Western couturiers and designers, the kimono was a catalyst to inspire new motifs and novel cuts and to provide freedom to the wearer by creating space between the body and the clothes. At the same time, Western manufacturing techniques and materials along with artistic trends contributed to the modernization of the T-shaped garments and helped to create fresh styles.”

The weaving, dyeing, and embroidery techniques for which Japan is so well known reached their peak of artistic sophistication during the Edo period (1615–1868). Members of the ruling military class were the primary consumers of sumptuous kimonos, each one being custom made. At the same time, a dynamic urban culture emerged, and the merchant class used its wealth to acquire material luxuries. One of the most visible art forms in daily life, kimonos provided a way for townspeople to proclaim their aesthetic sensibility. The kimono-pattern books and ukiyo-e woodblock prints used during that time are comparable to modern fashion magazines and provide evidence of a sophisticated system of production, distribution, and consumption.

Depictions of kimonos in Japanese woodblock prints were widely studied by Western couturiers in the late 19th century who were first inspired by the garment’s decorative motifs. Later, the kimono’s comparatively loose, enveloping silhouette and its rectilinear cut would have a most profound and lasting influence on Western fashion, with couturiers like Madeleine Vionnet and Cristóbal Balenciaga taking inspiration for their avant-garde creations from the kimono’s construction and geometric lines.

In the Meiji period (1868–1912), Western clothing was introduced to Japan. Simultaneously, modernization and social changes enabled more women to gain access to silk kimonos than ever before. Later, some of the kimono motifs were even inspired by Western art. Around the 1920s, affordable ready-to-wear kimonos (meisen) became very popular and reflected a more Westernized lifestyle. These were sold in department stores modeled on Western retailers, following Western-style marketing strategies.

Katsukawa Shunshō (Japanese, 1726–1792), 勝川春章画 二代目中村傳九郎, Kabuki Actor Nakamura Denkurō II, Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1770s, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, 29 × 14 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1914, JP125).

Kimono Style is organized thematically and largely chronologically across 10 galleries. A number of the textiles were rotated in October. The exhibition begins with a look at the costumes worn for Japan’s traditional forms of theater, Noh and Kyōgen, to highlight earlier traditions of clothing from which these elaborate costumes derive. While the two theater forms share roots, they grew from different stage conventions: Noh is solemn drama, while Kyōgen is comic and emphasizes dialogue. They developed together in the 14th century, with Kyōgen pieces performed during interludes or between acts of the main Noh play. The costumes—ornately decorated silk weaves, often made in the Nishijin district of Kyoto, for Noh, and simpler dyed fabrics for Kyōgen, such as the Kyōgen suit with rabbits jumping over waves—were integral to distinguishing the age, social status, and gender of the different characters, all played by male actors. Deriving from actual garments, these costumes preserved past traditions of apparel and shed light on Japanese textile history.

In the early days of Noh theater, during the Muromachi period (1392–1573), audience members often gave their own richly decorated clothing to actors in appreciation. These precious gifts subsequently were transformed into costumes, a tradition that likely led to the creation of exquisite garments specifically for the stage, such as the elegant Noh costume (nuihaku) with orchids and interlinked circles on view in the exhibition, decorated with refined gold foil and silk embroidery patterns

During the Edo period (1615–1868), the military government’s strict control of society meant that dress was not an entirely free or personal choice. Many aspects of clothing, such as the use of gold and expensive techniques, were regulated by the Tokugawa shogunate. At the top of the social hierarchy were the samurai. On the rare official occasions when elite samurai women were seen in public, they wore finely crafted silk garments rooted in conservative traditions, like the Summer robe (hito-e) with court carriage and waterside scene from the late Edo period, made for a woman in the Tokugawa shogun family. Of the three tiers of commoners who followed the samurai in the social order—farmers, artisans, and merchants—merchant-class women had the most freedom in deciding what to wear. Although their choices were supposed to reflect their class position and conform to sumptuary laws, they often disregarded such rules in order to be fashionable and to show off their families’ wealth. Their distinct looks will be illustrated through a number of Edo-period woodblock prints and fashion books depicting the patterns and dye techniques.

茶緑段蘭七宝模様縫箔, Noh Costume (Nuihaku) with Orchids and Interlinked Circles, Edo period (1615–1868), 18th century, plain-weave silk with gold- and silver-leaf application and silk embroidery, 168 × 136 cm (John C. Weber Collection).

Specialized apparel worn to conduct dangerous tasks—whether fighting enemy warriors or battling fires—exemplified the fusion of function and fashion in Japanese textiles. High-ranking samurai had access to the finest materials, including wool imported from Europe, and used boldly decorated battle surcoats (jinbaori) to project status and individual taste. Jinbaori, produced from about the 15th through the mid-19th century, were sleeveless garments originally worn over armor as protection from the weather that eventually became ceremonial wear, such as the Battle surcoat with tattered fan. Firefighters also enjoyed respect in Japan, especially in Edo (present-day Tokyo), where wood architecture led to frequent outbreaks of fire. Samurai firefighters wore expensive garments made of imported wool. The townsmen’s coats were reversible and made of thick, quilted cotton with a plain indigo-dyed exterior and an elaborately decorated interior, usually depicting warrior heroes and mythical creatures that instill bravery or are related to water. One example portrays a legendary warrior, Tarō Yoshikado, who acquired magical skills to be able to morph into a toad.

Access to cotton for commoners, especially those living in the north, increased in the late 17th century with the establishment of the kitamaesen, a commercial shipping route between northern and central Japan, which enabled the secondhand clothing trade to flourish. Castoff cotton clothing was brought from Edo to Osaka and dispersed to the north. Nothing was wasted. The respect for and ingenious use of scarce materials led to the emergence of regional folk textile traditions. On view will be sturdy working clothes for farmers and fishermen as well as lightweight indigo-dyed cotton kimonos for women intended for summertime.

After the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868 and the abolition of the class structure, the modernization of the Japanese fashion system occurred first in textile production. Global trade and industrialization in the second half of the 19th century vastly expanded Japan’s access to expensive or restricted wool, cotton, and machine-spun silk. Kimono patterns in the early to mid-20th century increasingly drew from Western art movements, including the organic style characteristic of Art Nouveau and the bold, geometric forms of Art Deco, as can be seen in the Summer kimono (hito-e) with swirls. At the same time, Western couturiers looked to Japanese art and clothing. Kimonos were first reinterpreted as dressing gowns, and later, primarily their fabrics, became a source of inspiration for the creations of couture houses such as Worth. By the early decades of the 20th century, the garment’s rectilinear form and loose shape revolutionized Western fashion: couturiers gave up the S-shaped, corseted bodice for a flat, straighter, modern line. Parisian innovators such as Paul Poiret, Callot Soeurs, and Madeleine Vionnet borrowed Japanese ideas and draped their garments from the shoulder, rather than tailoring the fabric to follow the shape of the body. For example, Poiret’s modernist ‘Paris’ coat from 1919, one of the highlights from The Costume Institute’s collection, was constructed using a single 15-foot length of silk velvet with minimal cutting, recalling the concept of creating a kimono from a single bolt of fabric without any waste and using only rectilinear elements.

In the Edo period, dry-goods stores or fabric merchants (gofukuten) sold high-quality, made-to-order kosode (the predecessor of the kimono, with small sleeve openings) of silk or fine hemp to men and women of the samurai and wealthy merchant classes. Precursors to the department store, the best-known gofukuten all had branches in multiple cities, including Kyoto, from where they ordered the fabrics. Around the early 20th century, these gofukuten gradually transitioned into modern department stores, adopted Western retail practices, and promoted a modernized lifestyle.

Affordable, stylish kimonos made from meisen, an inexpensive silk woven from predyed yarns, a technique known as ikat (kasuri), became popular in the early 20th century. By the 1920s and 1930s, working- and middle-class women from high-school students to shop assistants could buy these casual, bright-colored, ready-to-wear modern kimonos with bold, graphic patterns. Department stores frequently released new designs to spark trends and inspire purchases. Many meisen kimono patterns were inspired by avant-garde art movements, such as Italian Futurism and the Dutch ‘De Stijl’. Piet Mondrian’s compositions were particularly influential, as demonstrated by a large ikat (ōgasuri) kimono in bright yellow, teal, and raspberry red.

Since the second half of the 20th century, the kimono’s iconic structure has been a source of inspiration in both Japanese and Western fashion. Some modern designers use its shape as a starting point for architecturally constructed garments, as seen in the work of Issey Miyake and Cristobal Balenciaga, whose Evening wrap from 1951 will be on view. Others play with the kimono’s symbolic associations. Remixed and reinterpreted by Japanese designers active in the West, including Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, the kimono dynamically reflects Japanese culture both to the world and back onto itself as evident in Rei Kawakubo’s Ensemble for Comme des Garçons featuring a manga figure. Through all these iterations, the kimono has gestured toward a future beyond fashion trends, cultural boundaries, and gender norms.

Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection is curated by Monika Bincsik, Diane and Arthur Abbey Associate Curator for Japanese Decorative Arts, with guest co-curator Karen Van Godtsenhovenk. The exhibition is made possible by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Fund, 2015. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, it is made possible by the Florence and Herbert Irving Fund for Asian Art Publications. Additional support is provided by the Richard and Geneva Hofheimer Memorial Fund.

Monika Bincsik, Karen van Godtsenhoven, and Masanao Arai, Kimono Style: Edo Traditions to Modern Design (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2022), 176 pages, ISBN: 978-1588397522, $35.

Monika Bincsik is the Diane and Arthur Abbey Associate Curator for Japanese Decorative Arts in the Asian Art Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Karen Van Godtsenhoven is an independent curator based in Belgium. Arai Masanao is a textile historian based in Japan.

Exhibition | Ganesha: Lord of New Beginnings

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 2, 2023

Ivory sculpture of Ganesha seated.

Seated Ganesha, detail, 16th century, India (Odisha), ivory, 7 inches (18.4 cm) high
(New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 64.102)

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Now on view at The Met:

Ganesha: Lord of New Beginnings
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 19 November 2022 — 25 February 2024

Painting of Ganesha seated.

Seated Four-Armed Ganesha, ca. 1775, India (Rajasthan, Bundi), ink and opaque watercolor on paper, 15 × 11 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977.440.15).

Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is a Brahmanical (Hindu) deity known to clear a path to the gods and remove obstacles in everyday life. He is loved by his devotees (bhakti) for his many traits, including his insatiable appetite for sweet cakes and his role as a dispenser of magic, surprise, and laughter. However, Ganesha is also the lord of ganas (nature deities) and can take on a fearsome aspect in this guise.

The seventh- to twenty-first-century works in this exhibition trace his depiction across the Indian subcontinent, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. Featuring 24 works in a variety of media—sculptures, paintings, musical instruments, ritual implements, and photographs— the exhibition emphasizes the vitality and exuberance of Ganesha as the bringer of new beginnings.

The exhibition is made possible by the Florence and Herbert Irving Fund for Asian Art Exhibitions.

Exhibition | Embracing Color: Enamel in Chinese Decorative Arts

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 2, 2023

Now on view at The Met:

Embracing Color: Enamel in Chinese Decorative Arts, 1300–1900
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2 July 2022 — 17 February 2025

Incense burner in the shape of a rooster, cloisonné enamel.

Incense burner in the shape of a rooster / 清中期 掐絲琺瑯鷄形香薰, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Qianlong period (1736–95), second half 18th century, cloisonné enamel, 8 inches (21cm) high (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29.110.41). A symbol of diligence and fortune, the rooster is a particularly popular Chinese decorative motif. The hollow body houses the burning incense and the detachable wings serve as the lid, with several small openings on the wings allowing the fragrant smoke to escape.

Enamel decoration is a significant element of Chinese decorative arts that has long been overlooked. This exhibition reveals the aesthetic, technical, and cultural achievement of Chinese enamel wares by demonstrating the transformative role of enamel during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. The first transformational moment occurred in the late 14th to 15th century, when the introduction of cloisonné enamel from the West, along with the development of porcelain with overglaze enamels, led to a shift away from a monochromatic palette to colorful works. The second transformation occurred in the late 17th to 18th century, when European enameling materials and techniques were brought to the Qing court and more subtle and varied color tones were developed on enamels applied over porcelain, metal, glass, and other mediums. In both moments, Chinese artists did not simply adopt or copy foreign techniques; they actively created new colors and styles that reflected their own taste. The more than 100 objects on view are drawn mainly from The Met collection.

Rotation 1 | 2 July 2022 — 30 April 2023
Rotation 2 | 20 May 2023 — 24 March 2024
Rotation 3 | 13 April 2024 — 17 February 2025

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