Published: September 19, 2000
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – An engaging variety of small scale art objects from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia is on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through December 10.
“The Miniature in the Arts of Asia” includes netsuke, inro, cosmetic boxes, ivory figurines, miniature buildings and animals, scholars, “playthings” diminutive cups and jars, Buddhist votive figures, interspersed with larger paintings, textiles, magnificent screens, and decorative objects featuring minutely detailed workmanship. The works in the exhibition cover a period form the Neolithic age to the Nineteenth Century.
The installation, designed to coincide with the exhibition of American portrait miniatures opening in October, is one in a thematic series highlighting aspects of the Art Gallery’s permanent collection of Asian art. “The Miniature in the Arts of Asia” was organized by David A. Sensabaugh, curator of Asian art, and assistant curator Sadako Ohki, and is enhanced by significant loans from private collectors.
Many of the objects in the exhibition are from Chinese tombs and were intended to accompany the deceased into the afterlife to make sure the underground spirits were aware of his or her importance. Among these is a ceramic replica of a multi-storied tower, a farmhouse with animals, handsome horse sculptures, court musicians, and precious containers of all kinds.
Related artwork are grouped together throughout the exhibition. One of the first cases holds the twelve animals of the zodiac, intricately worked in ivory, silver, and wood, from China and Japan. Another displays bronze mirrors with decorated backs, used as early as the second millennium BCE.
Perhaps the most familiar small-scale Asian art objects are Japanese netsuke, the toggle fasteners for sashes, and they are here in a remarkable variety of shapes. Of particular charm and elegance are the inro, the exquisitely decorated lacquer containers to be hung, like a purse, from the sash. A handsome selection of small-scale objects used in a Chinese scholar’s studio includes a mini-screen meant to shield the scholar’s writings from the wind, seals, brush holders, and numerous desk “playthings.”
Scrolls, album leaves, and miniature paintings from Persia and India, as well as China and Japan, both small in scale and finely detailed, are displayed. This meticulous work is also evident in an intricately carved ivory sword and scabbard and two dazzling Japanese screens, on loan from the collection of Peggy and Richard Danziger, depicting autumn foliage and spring blossoms, with poems in calligraphy attached to the branches.
On Tuesday, November 28, at 2 pm, and Thursday, November 30, at noon, docent Zelma Moss will give a gallery talk, “Netsuke and Other Small Objects.”
The Yale Art Gallery is at Chapel Street at York. Telephone, 20¾32-0611.
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