Briefly: The Asian Collection

From a Neolithic Chinese storage jar to a contemporary Japanese Kutani vase, Joslyn Art Museum's collection offers a 4,000-year overview of Asian civilization. Of particular significance is an extraordinary eighteenth-century (Kang-xi) eight-panel, carved red lacquer screen. Highlighted are the cultures of China, Japan, Korea, India, Tibet, and Southeast Asia.

Below are highlights selected from Joslyn's Asian collection.

Asian
Kano Morinobu (Japan, Edo Period (1615-1868), 1675-1724),
Cranes , n.d.,
six panel screen, ink and color on paper, 68 1/2 x 146 1/2 in.; 173.99 x 372.11 cm
Gift of the John B. Sumner Collection, 1970.71

This folding screen by the later Kano artist Morinobu is the result of generations of rigorous artistic training and strict maintenance of proper subjects and styles over the centuries. Screens are moveable paintings used to divide large spaces in palaces, temples and homes. They are usually viewed while seated on the floor.

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Artist Unknown (Gandharan, 2nd- 3rd century),
Bodhisattva (possibly Maitreya) , 2nd- 3rd century,
gray schist, height : 13 in.; 33.02 cm
Museum purchase, 1951.624

Some of the earliest representations of Buddha in human form were made in the ancient artistic center of Gandhara. Situated in a region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gandhara was once under the political and cultural influence of Alexander the Great and his successors. Buddha images from Gandhara thus display stylistic traits of Hellenistic Greek art.

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Artist Unknown (Indian, ),
Bhudevi , Chola period (ca. 907-1053),
stone, 40 1/2 x 14 x 7 in.; 102.87 x 35.56 x 17.78 cm
Mengedoht-Hatz Bequest Fund Purchase, 1964.623

This carved stone figure personifies the earth and is one of many sacred images that decorated Hindu temples in South India. Called Bhudevi, she is a consort of Vishnu, one of the most important Hindu deities, and is usually depicted with him.

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Artist unknown (Chinese, 18th century),
Eight-panel screen , Kangxi period (1662–1722), early 18th century,
carved red lacquer, gold inlaid brown lacquer, and wood, 6 ½ x 10 ft.; 198.12 x 304.8 cm
Collection of Joslyn Art Museum, Partial Gift of Mr. Anunt Hengtrakul and Museum Purchase with funds, 2005.13.a-h

The front of this cinnabar lacquer screen depicts court scenes above panels of dragons among waves. On the reverse, columns of 168 shou (longevity) characters are written in various styles above paintings of orchids in gold on a deep brown lacquer background. The screen bears the signature of Zheng Xie (1693–1765), one of the Eight Eccentric painters of Yanzhou. 

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Artist unknown (Chinese, 4th - 6th century),
Bodhisattva , Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534),
stone, height: 22 ¾ in.; 57.79 cm
Gift of Arthur Wiesenberger, 1954.378

Around the turn of the millennium, a branch of Buddhism called Mahayana, the “Greater Vehicle,” developed a complex pantheon of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Although there are many different Buddha figures, they all share a set of traits that distinguish them from bodhisattvas and other deities. 

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Artist unknown (Chinese, 7th - 10th century),
Zhenmushou: Bixie , Tang Dynasty (618-907),
glazed earthenware, 29 ½ x 9 ½ x 13 in.; 74.93 x 24.13 x 33.02 cm
Gift of Anunt Hengtrakul, 2005.1.2

Fierce grave-dwelling beasts, zhenmushou (earth spirits or spirit quellers) were placed in the tomb to drive off any malevolent being who dared enter. These fantastical creatures, with hooves, spines, and curling horns, combined the features of animals and humans. They would have accompanied the funeral procession through the streets, proclaiming the importance of the deceased.

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Artist unknown (Chinese, 7th - 10th century),
Zhenmushou: Tianlu , Tang Dynasty (618-907),
glazed earthenware, 32 ¾ x 10 x 17 ¾ in.; 83.19 x 25.4 x 45.089 cm
Gift of Anunt Hengtrakul, 2005.1.1

Fierce grave-dwelling beasts, zhenmushou (earth spirits or spirit quellers) were placed in the tomb to drive off any malevolent being who dared enter. These fantastical creatures, with hooves, spines, and curling horns, combined the features of animals and humans. They would have accompanied the funeral procession through the streets, proclaiming the importance of the deceased.

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Artist unknown (Chinese, Tang Dynasty (618–907)),
Court Lady , Tang Dynasty (618–907),
earthenware with sancai glaze, 14 x 3 ½ x 4 in.; 35.56 x 8.9 x 10.2 cm
Gift of Anunt Hengtrakul, 2004.12

Tang Dynasty burial sites are most famous for their elaborate tomb figures, which were to afford comfort to the deceased in the afterlife. These figures provide a clear picture of the dress and styles of the time, as well as a reflection of the wealth and grandeur of this period known as the Golden Age of China.

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Artist unknown (Chinese, Song Dynasty (960–1279) )/Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368)),
Cosmetic box with lotus plant interior , early 14th century,
ceramic with qing pai glaze and iron spots, 2.37 h x 5 in. dia.; 6.03 x 12.7 cm
Gift of Anunt Hengtrakul, 2004.4.a-b

Used by women of status, cosmetic boxes such as this have an elaborate interior decorated with lotus, a Buddhist symbol of purity. They often held face powders made of rice flour and calcium. This ying qing box displays an interior motif of lotus flowers and vines. Ying qing or qing pai (sky blue) glazes were highly popular during the Song and Yuan periods. Large quantities of these wares were manufactured in southern kilns for export as well as for domestic use.

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Nishiyama Hôen (Japanese; Shijo School, Edo Period (1615–1868), 1804–1867),
Two Peacocks and Flowers , 19th century,
ink and colors on silk on two-fold screen, 66 x 74 1/2 in.; 167.64 x 189.23 cm
Museum purchase, 1998.50
 
Hôen was a prominent painter in Osaka. He was a master colorist who specialized in birds and flowers, as well as figures, and was noted for his naturalistic drawing and delicate and precise brushwork. Here a male peacock displays his magnificent tail to his mate amidst a garden of tree peonies and cherry and magnolia blossoms.

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Artist unknown (East Indian, 18th century),
Ganesha , 18th century,
alabaster, 17 ½ x9 ½ x 5 ½ in.; 44.5 x 24.1 x 14 cm
Gift of James E. Shugart and Roger M. Hughes, 2000.19

Ganesha is the son of Siva and his wife Parvati. Though he is simplistically described as the Hindu elephant-headed deity of plenty and good fortune, there are profound cosmological and arcane aspects to his divine nature. He is called Vighneshvara — the "Remover of Obstacles" — Deity of Wisdom, and Ganapati, Commander of Siva's host, among numerous other epithets.

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