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  • Thumbnail for Korean amulets and chatelaines (4)
    Korean amulets and chatelaines (4)

    These are interesting pedagogically in discussions of Asian shamanism but need further study.

  • Thumbnail for Tanegashima Rifle
    Tanegashima Rifle

    Flint and safety pin lacking, but otherwise in excellent condition. So, too, is the lacquered, fitted case, with its identifying mon, or crest of the daimyo clan for whom it was made. The firearm refers to one of the most interesting periods of Japanese history, and can be dated to a fairly precise time period, because such weapons did not exist in Japan before they were introduced by the Portuguese in 1543. The Portuguese had been blown off course in a storm and made landfall at Tanegashima, a small island off the coast of Kyushu (hence the name "Tanegashima" Rifle). This weapon is much more rare than a samurai sword because the time when it was in use was of such short duration. Use of such guns was banned early in the Edo period. This rifle is heavy! Metal fittings with lion on butt end. On lower surface of the rifle, metal fittings, as in sword furniture, with cloud pattern near the end (cf. smoke from firing). Halfway down is a flaming jewel. Back near the trigger, a 3-clawed dragon form in the clouds. Behind the dragon is a character on a round metal insert; then the trigger; on the bottom of the butt, another character. On the sides of the shoulder piece is further decoration (left side, cherry blossoms; right side, kara-shishi [Chinese lion-dog), and on upper surface is peony, often associated with the lion-dog in Japanese decorative arts. Above the trigger is a samurai helmet; on the metal assembly is another character, prob. the maker's symbol. Lacquered case is shaped to fit the rifle, and bears the mon of a five-petaled flower with circular petals, possibly a plum, within a circle.

  • Thumbnail for Charger - underside with foot
    Charger - underside with foot

    From Sawankhalok, 15th or 16th century with 20th century added decoration. Stoneware, H: 2 5/8" x Dia: 11". Green-glazed wares were among the earliest Chinese ceramics to make their way to Southeast Asia. These celadons were coveted because of the belief that they had magical properties such as the ability to reveal poisonous food. To achieve the green color of celadon, glaze made of wood ash mixed with clay and 2 to 5 per cent iron is applied, then fired in a reduction low oxygen atmosphere; the potter accomplishes this by closing the kiln's intake ports at a precise internal temperature, which is determined by observing the degree of incandescence within the kiln through a peephole. If the timing is off, the glaze will maintain its original whitish color. The resulting colors range from a pale, almost white green to a bright apple green, while the glaze finish ranges from matte to a glassy, reflective surface. Large, shallow plates or chargers were particularly coveted in the islands; they reflect Southeast Asian and Islamic influence, as the large size was suited to communal eating. However, this charger probably never was exported, as it slumped in the kiln and was undoubtedly considered a kiln waster. The plate was originally devoid of decoration, with the design now on the surface having been added in recent years by an unscrupulous dealer to enhance the price of the object. Even in the photograph, you can make out how lines mimicking incisions were drawn on both the exterior and interior. The base elucidates the firing technique, as the circular mark indicates the charger was stacked in the kiln using a disc support, the typical Sawankhalok kiln support used to separate the dishes so the glaze does not adhere them together.

  • Thumbnail for Shuji version of the Womb  Mandala
    Shuji version of the Womb Mandala

    16.25 x 14.25 inches. The Womb Mandala (J.: Taizokai Mandara) is the static principle of the cosmos; the matrix of all things, i.e., the material world of physical phenomena, with Dainichi Nyorai, the Cosmic Universal Buddha in the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism occupying the center. In the shuji version of this mandara, Sanskrit characters substitute for the images of Buddhas and other Buddhist deities normally seen on the mandara form. As a pair, this painting is coupled with the Diamond World Mandala [J: Kongokai Mandara] and are the "seed character" (shuji) versions of the Ryokai Mandara, or Mandalas of the Two Worlds. These pairs of mandara are devotional aids in the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan, emphasizing the phenomenal and the transcendant sides of the Cosmic, Universal Buddha Dainichi Nyorai. The pair of mandalas would be hung in a Shingon temple to provide focal points for contemplation and ritual religious practice, and could also have been used in initiation ceremonies for new initiates into the disciplines of Shingon. The small scale of this shuji pair suggests private devotional usage. These are later examples of a significant type, and the two should always be displayed together, as they would have been hung together in the temple.

  • Thumbnail for Jarlet
    Jarlet

    From Sawankhalok. Stoneware, H: 4" x Dia. 2". Small covered boxes and jarlets were exported in huge quantities from the Thai export kilns of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to island Southeast Asia; their uses can only be imagined possibly for spices, unguents, cosmetics, or some other precious commodity. We do know that they were used in burials, possibly taking the place of larger, more valued ceramics. Since glazed wares were not produced in island Southeast Asia, these objects formed an important part of the import market. Two lugs at the shoulders allow a cover to be tied over the top and also allow for suspension of the jarlet off the ground, away from insects and rodents. Indentations in the body of the jarlet gives it a melon shape. The base is finished and the pale celadon is slightly crackled. Jarlets of this type were also produced by the Chinese, but the Thai jarlets generally are more finely finished with a carefully carved-recessed base. Excavations of burials in the Philippines revealed a ceremonial placement of imported vessels around the body Thai jarlets were placed around the head, Chinese plates were inverted over the pubic area, saucers were placed beneath the hands, and local wares were arranged away from the body. What this arrangement meant will never be known, but it does suggest that a specific symbolic significance was assigned to the various vessels.

  • Thumbnail for Bishamon-ten (Tamon-ten), Guardian King of the North - side view
    Bishamon-ten (Tamon-ten), Guardian King of the North - side view

    23" high. Tamon-ten (Skt.: Vaishravana; Ch.: Duowen) is the alternate name for the Guardian King who later became known as Bishamon-ten. He is also one of the Shitenno, the one associated with the Northern direction, traditionally held to be the most dangerous direction from which evil spirits emanate -- so dangerous that cities in China and Japan, set up according to feng shui principles -- situate a Buddhist temple in that Northeast corner, to protect the city from those evil spirits. Tamon-ten holds a halberd in one hand (missing in this example), and a reliquary/stupa in the other hand, here resembling a flaming jewel). Paint has darkened, flaked off; no gilding visible.

  • Thumbnail for Womb Mandala -  detail of center figures
    Womb Mandala - detail of center figures

    49 x 39 inches. The Womb Mandala (J.: Taizokai Mandara) is paired with the Diamond Mandala [J: Kongokai Mandara]. Together the two are known as the Mandalas of the Two Worlds [J: Ryokai Mandara], referring in Esoteric Buddhism of the Shingon Sect to the phenomenal [J: Taizokai] and the transcentdental [J: Kongokai] manifestations of the Cosmic, Universal Buddha[J: Dainichi Nyorai] that is encountered in Esoteric Buddhism. The Cosmic Buddha, Dainichi Nyorai, occupies the center of a red lotus blossom at the heart of the mandala; Buddhas of the four directions and four bodhisattvas associated with each one radiate from him on each of 8 petals. Wrathful manifestations [J: myoo] are below the lotus, and around it are arranged the hundreds of other figures.

  • Thumbnail for Views of Osaka
    Views of Osaka

    One of a pair (originally) of 6-panel screens; each panel is 68" x 25".A pre-modern work, a variant, in the Edo Period, of the Rakuchû Rakugai type of views of Kyoto. Here, we see scenes of Osaka. Suyari (clouds) applied in pieces.

  • Thumbnail for Bowl
    Bowl

    From Phan, Thailand, stoneware. H: 3" x Dia: 6". The kilns of Phan were discovered in 1962, and, like that of Sankampaeng, they produced ceramics for domestic use, rather than export like the Sawankhalok and Sukhothai kilns. The ceramics from these kilns seem to be almost exclusively celadons. The clay is a light color and often the glazes are very fine. This small, deep-sided bowl is heavily potted with a pale body and fine colored glaze.

  • Thumbnail for Korean amulets and chatelaines (8)
    Korean amulets and chatelaines (8)

    These are interesting pedagogically in discussions of Asian shamanism but need further study.

  • Thumbnail for Tanegashima Rifle case
    Tanegashima Rifle case

    Flint and safety pin lacking, but otherwise in excellent condition. So, too, is the lacquered, fitted case, with its identifying mon, or crest of the daimyo clan for whom it was made. The firearm refers to one of the most interesting periods of Japanese history, and can be dated to a fairly precise time period, because such weapons did not exist in Japan before they were introduced by the Portuguese in 1543. The Portuguese had been blown off course in a storm and made landfall at Tanegashima, a small island off the coast of Kyushu (hence the name "Tanegashima" Rifle). This weapon is much more rare than a samurai sword because the time when it was in use was of such short duration. Use of such guns was banned early in the Edo period. This rifle is heavy! Metal fittings with lion on butt end. On lower surface of the rifle, metal fittings, as in sword furniture, with cloud pattern near the end (cf. smoke from firing). Halfway down is a flaming jewel. Back near the trigger, a 3-clawed dragon form in the clouds. Behind the dragon is a character on a round metal insert; then the trigger; on the bottom of the butt, another character. On the sides of the shoulder piece is further decoration (left side, cherry blossoms; right side, kara-shishi [Chinese lion-dog), and on upper surface is peony, often associated with the lion-dog in Japanese decorative arts. Above the trigger is a samurai helmet; on the metal assembly is another character, prob. the maker's symbol. Lacquered case is shaped to fit the rifle, and bears the mon of a five-petaled flower with circular petals, possibly a plum, within a circle.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Landscape with pavilion - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Landscape with pavilion - detail of inscription by Zhu Yiliang

    The pavilion on the promotory gives a vantage point from which one can enjoy the scene and while the boats under the sail out carry one across the waves. At the very end of the inscription is the name Hanshi, which is the zi of the Kangxi artist Zhu Yiliang. This would then be the earliest artist in the collection by far, but the identification should be accepted with some caution. Zhu Yiliang was known for calligraphy and seal carving, not painting. While the dedication does not contain the standard nineteenth century phrasing, the style is not convincingly eighteenth century. Finally, one would need to ask why a single early artist made his way into the collection. Could a later unrecorded artist have had used the name Hanshi as well? Only the emergence of other works signed with the same name will answer the question. The scene depicted is that of the cliff or promontory called the Yan[zi]ji on the banks of the broad Yangtze River. Although mountains may not have been so high in the south, no Chinese artist was restricted by photographic realism. The pavilion on the promontory gives a vantage point from which one can enjoy the scene or travel across the waves on one of the boats under sail. The inscription begins with two seven-character quatrains, then the title and the artist's name.

  • Thumbnail for Small plate - detail of bottom
    Small plate - detail of bottom

    Stoneware, Dia. 5 3/8". Chinese ceramics are far better understood than Southeast Asian wares because careful excavations and the imperial records of the kilns of Jingdezhen, which began producing ceramics in the Tang dynasty, have provided a clearer chronology of Chinese wares. Although the ceramics of the imperial kilns differ from wares made specifically for export, the stylistic development of the two types share enough traits so that the one informs the other. The Chinese wares produced with underglaze blue range from folkish kitchen ware to sophisticated imperial porcelains. Variations in color from grey to a vivid blue depend on the source of the cobalt. Local Chinese cobalt, discovered in the fifteenth century, has a high content of manganese, which causes the blue to tend toward a pale grey, while the high iron and low manganese content of the imported Middle Eastern cobalt creates an intense blue. Yuan (fourteenth century) blue-and-white wares have been discovered in insular Southeast Asia, but it was during the Ming dynasty that the quantity of blue-and-white exports increased greatly. These small plates are glazed in underglaze blue that is painted freely in plant-like motif. The base is glazed and has an underglaze blue marking that may indicate the potter. Chinese wares can be distinguished from Thai by the clay body, and by the fact glaze is often painted on the base and over the footring.

  • Thumbnail for The Daimond Mandala - detail of central panel with deities
    The Daimond Mandala - detail of central panel with deities

    The Diamond Mandala (Kongokai Mandara; Skt.: Garbhadhatu Mandala) is paired with the Womb Mandala (Kongokai Mandara; Skt.: Vajradhatu Mandala). Together, the two forms are known as the Ryokai Mandara (or "Mandalas of the Two Worlds"), referring in Esoteric Buddhism of the Shingon sect to the phenomenal (Taizokai) and the transcendental (Kongokai) manifestations of Dainichi Nyorai (the version of the Cosmic, Universal Buddha Roshana [Skt. Vairocana] that is encountered in Esoteric Buddhism).

  • Thumbnail for Ivory Figure with a Spinning Face
    Ivory Figure with a Spinning Face

    Noh performer with long hair holds bells for Shinto Dance in his raised arm. The figure's head spins up from a calm face to that of a demon like face; figure's garment has a geometric/floral motif; he holds a fan in his left had and wears a cap on his head; his hair is tied back with a bow which is broken on one side.

  • Thumbnail for Map of Japan, 19th Century
    Map of Japan, 19th Century by Tirion

    Map by Dutchman, Tirion, documents the history of Japan during the period when it was closed off from most of the world in the Edo period. This shows the Dutch presence in Nagasaki during the Edo period.

  • Thumbnail for Unglazed jar - bottom view
    Unglazed jar - bottom view

    From Pitsanulok, Sukhothai, or Sawankhalok. Earthenware, H: 12 3/4" x 9". Jars of this type were produced in huge quantities in Sawankhalok, Pitsanulok, and Sukhothai, and it is impossible to distinguish the production of the three centers. In all instances, the clay body is a grey color and the decoration is appliqued and jabbed on to the surface. Unglazed vessels are often used to contain water, as the liquid stays cool, since the vessel body can breath.

  • Thumbnail for Unglazed footed pot - bottom view
    Unglazed footed pot - bottom view

    From Ban Tamasat, third to first millennium BCE. Earthenware, H: 6 x 7 3/8 in. Unglazed earthenware was first produced in the third millennium in Southeast Asia. These unglazed vessels were used for domestic use and have been excavated in burials. They were constructed by coiling the clay, then smoothing with an anvil (a piece of wood or stone), rather than being wheel thrown.

  • Thumbnail for Men Talking - closeup of signature
    Men Talking - closeup of signature

    Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper. Dimensions: 31 1/4 x 21 in.Condition is excellent with rollers missing on scroll.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - The First Red Cliff Prose Poem - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - The First Red Cliff Prose Poem - detail of inscription by Sun Zhang

    Two bearded scholars in a boat on a moonlight night. Despite the accomplished technique of this work and presence of a pen name and signature (the character "zhang" is not clear), the artist has not been identified. The style of the painting is very close to that of Qian Hui'an (1833-1911), but the calligraphy in the inscription is different from that artist. Qian's followers were legion, and any number of artists could have produced this charming fan. The face of the bearded scholar at center is particularly close to Huian's work. One can compare this work to those by Shen Zhaohan, another follower of Hui'an. The artist states that he is doing the work in Hucheng, or Shanghai, where Qian Hui'an spent most of his career. The subject of the painting is the "Ode on the Red Cliff" by Su Shi, a topic that appears several times in this collection. It takes as a theme the evanescence of human effort over the broad span of history, and this concept must have resonated with many in these confusing times.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Lady Reclining on a bench in a garden - detail of calligraphy
    Fan painting - Lady Reclining on a bench in a garden - detail of calligraphy by Xiaoyu, or the Lady Feng [?]

    Paintings of both men and women in gardens. A part of the iconography of most images of women in the gardens is the wall, signifying that she was in a space enclosed. The identification of this woman is uncertain. Xiaoyu is taken from a seal, and the second character of the name (after Feng) is unclear, although even if it were readable there seems to be no likely woman artist with a first character Feng in her name in the dictionary. She does say that she did the work in Shanghai, and since women traveled little, this is likely where she lived. There are many paintings of both men and women in gardens. It is interesting that a part of the iconography of most images of women in gardens is the wall, signifying that she was in a space enclosed, a space that belonged to someone else, and by extension she was property within that space. Perhaps only in dreams could one escape. This work is competent, but not too impressive in either its brushwork or composition.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Landscape
    Fan painting - Landscape by Gu Yun (1835-1896)

    A round fan with a single large pine to the right, partly obscuring a complex buildings. A single figure is placed before a long table seen through the open window of tall structure at left center. A Single peak is in the left distance. Gu Yun is one of the best-documented artists in the collection, and information on his career can be found in several publications. There are five fans in this collection signed by the artist, and this provides an interesting opportunity to compare the brush manner and calligraphy of a single individual over time. While there are many precedents in the classical past for these standard elements of trees, houses, and distant mountains, the somewhat aggressive pine tree that dominates the paintings suggests some elements of the Shanghai school. The brushwork is quiet, however, and reminds one of Gu's conservative beginnings.

  • Thumbnail for Mt. Horai [Isle of the Immortals] - closer view of image
    Mt. Horai [Isle of the Immortals] - closer view of image by Okada Beisanjin (1744-1818)

    Hanging scroll; ink and light colors on silk. Dimensions: 34 3/4 x 19 7/8 in. Condition is good. A relatively formal work for this artist.

  • Thumbnail for Man Pointing (Kanzan) - full view
    Man Pointing (Kanzan) - full view

    Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper. Dimensions: 11 1/2 x 51 in. Condition is excellent. Represents the Chinese poet Han Shan (Japanese: Kanzan), and is a pair with 'Man with Broom at Feet', which represents Shide (Japanese: Jittoku).

  • Thumbnail for Bamboo and Rock in Rain - closer view of image
    Bamboo and Rock in Rain - closer view of image by Hine Taizan (1813-1869)

    Hanging scroll; ink on silk. Dimensions: 51 3/8 x 20 in. Condition is good.