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Empress Cixi of China

February 27, 2018 Leave a comment

Somebody asked me about a book about Empress Cixi of China (1835-1908); Cixi had huge obstacles to overcome; she is much maligned but this 2013 biography by Jung Chang EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI, THE CONCUBINE WHO LAUNCHED MODERN CHINA paints a somewhat different picture.

Empress Cixi of China

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THE SOUTHERN GATES OF ARABIA, A JOURNEY IN THE HADHRAMAUT

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment

southern gates of arabia

I seem to turn more and more to adventure, travel and explorer books- for the body, the mind and the soul.

FREYA STARK

by Caroline Moorehead
1985

THE SOUTHERN GATES OF ARABIA, A JOURNEY IN THE HADHRAMAUT

by Freya Stark with introduction by Jane Fletcher
1936/2001

The two books by and about Freya Stark born in Paris 1893 I am reading again. Freya Stark fearlessly traveled alone to Persia, Iraq, sailed down the Red Sea following the ancient frankincense trail, and followed in the steps of Alexander the Great. She was an explorer, a historian, an archeologist and a writer in between working in places like Baghdad and sleeping in the tents of Bedouins. She was made Dame of the British Empire in 1972.

Where should we go next?

Cheers,

Elisabeth

 

More books about global trade……

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment

silk trade

SILK, PORCELAIN AND LACQUER: CHINA AND JAPAN AND THEIR TRADE WITH WESTERN EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD, 1500-1644.

By Teresa Canepa, London 2016.

Global trade via trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific networks satisfying the demand for luxury goods, creating profitable opportunities for Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English merchants. The book explains that Chinese porcelains and silk was produced and shipped in great quantities whereas practically all Japanese lacquer traded by the Europeans was made to order. The book is said to be exceptionally well illustrated.

Cheers,

Elisabeth

 

A PORTRAIT OF THE HINDUS

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment

BALTHAZAR SOLVYNS & THE EUROPEAN IMAGE OF INDIA 1760-1824

by ROBERT L. HARDGRAVE, Jr.

portrait of hindus

Austin, Texas, August 2003
Oxford University Press

Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr. is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin. A specialist in the domestic and international politics of South Asia, he taught at UT in the departments of Government and Asian Studies from 1967 until his retirement in 2001.

My fault that I have never heard about the Flemish artist François Balthazar Solvyns (1760-1824) who arrived in Calcutta in 1794 and lived there until 1803.

He painted oil paintings and made drawings and then etchings. He portrays figures of many different occupations over 100 years before the “Company School” paintings of the 19th century.

The book is very scholarly written, – I cannot read more than a few pages at a time -the book has many black/white and color prints and these alone are very entertaining and informative. I have to return the book to the UT library and will have to buy it soon soon because the price seems to be going up!

Cheers,

Elisabeth

 

Swann Galleries’ Early Printed Books Auction

Central Asian travel books exceeded expectations at Swann Galleries’ Spring Early Printed Books Auction.

unnamed

Sir Marc Aurel Stein, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, first edition, Oxford, 1921. Sold April 12, 2016 for $18,750. (Pre-sale estimate $6,000 to $9,000).

New interest in the adventures of the Silk Road during the late 19th and early 20th century sparked these extraordinary prices.  I am aware that Sir Aurel Stein also removed a collection of books and manuscripts from the famous Dunhuang caves……..  And some of us are still waiting to go…..especially to the Taklamakan desert — if only briefly!

Cheers,

Elisabeth and Natasha

WHERE IS THE ORIGINAL – IN NEW YORK OR IN CHINA?

An interesting situation developed for a Chinese National Treasure— a painting hanging in the Forbidden Palace in Beijing and by some scholars long thought not to be the original by the Five Dynasties court painter Zhou Wenju (active  942-961) but a rendering by the Sung  Emperor Zhou who delighted in rendering or making studies of earlier masterworks— an activity often encountered in Chinese art.

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The book “Original Intentions” edited by Nicholas Pearce and Jason Steuber deals extensively with productions, reproductions and interpretations in the arts of China (University Press of Florida 2012). Such later renderings of original works of art make it often enormously difficult to authenticate Chinese paintings. And who is to say whether  the original or the  exact rendering of the original should be worth more?
Now a painting has surfaced in New York  that is thought to be the original  done by the artist himself. The painting will be offered by Gianguan Auctions, formerly Hong Kong Auctions on March 19th. The painting is titled “Chess Game abut of Screen”.
I am curious who is behind Gianguan Auctions?  A quick internet search:
Gianguan Auctions

Gianguan Auctions (also known as Hong Kong Auctions) specializes in Chinese and Asian arts and has a wide clientele from China and Asia. Established in Hong Kong in 2002, a New York office opened in 2004. Four times a year, auctions are held at the Lefcourt Building on New York’s Madison Ave. Under the management of Mr. Kwong Lum, Gianguan has successfully sourced high-quality consignments that has resulted in record prices. Recently, Mr. Lum was appointed by Beijing’s National Museum’s Appraisal Centre as its chief consultant, an exceptional honour, which solidifies their reputation as experts in Chinese, antiques.

Gianguan Auctions Fine Chinese Art Auctions include an important selection of American Chinese private collections of traditional painting and calligraphy, bronzes, porcelain, jade and scholars items, dating from the Soong Dynasty to contemporary time with representations from each period”.

Go to gianguanauctions.com to see the catalogue of their upcoming auction.
Cheers
Elisabeth and Natasha

Recomended Titles

I recently came across a few very interesting books that I wanted to share with you.

1. THREADS OF SILK AND GOLD:ORNAMENTAL TEXTILES FROM MEIJI JAPAN
 McDermott, Hiroko T. and Pollard, Clare, Oxford, 2012.
thredFor years I have tried to convince clients, collectors  and dealers of the merits of late 19th/early 20th century Japanese textiles, some made for export. These are very accomplished embroideries, often with resist-dye silks and velvets, tapestry works,  and appliqué – used for large textiles but also for  kimonos we so much admire. I believe they were  and  still are not appreciated so much because they date from a relatively late period but one forgets that many of these techniques are no longer used today and have become rare. The textiles and kimonos once used are no longer in demand. If you find an artist in Japan who still works with these techniques, his/her works are often more expensive than the older version.
I believe this is the first English language book  on this subject.
So enjoy this book!
2. Something on a controversial subject — because not so much understood by Westerners. It does not have to be controversial!
ORIGINAL INTENTIONS:ESSAYS ON PRODUCTION, REPRODUCTION, AND INTERPRETATION IN THE ARTS OF CHINA
Pearce, Nicholas & Steuber, Jason, Gainesville 2012.
2This book deals with the old question of authenticity – in Chinese culture everything has a precedent,  and paintings, sculpture and other works are produced, reproduced, replicated not so much to fake but to render something  according to  and in hommage to earlier masters. This approach goes back all the way to antiquity when jade and bronze pieces from earlier periods were replicated. Later emperors excelled in producing wares imitating such earlier renditions.
There is a fundamental difference between faking to cheat – detested by the Chinese scholar and artist, and copying a work of art; the difference is clearly expressed in the language of Chinese connoisseurship –intention is everything.  The books deals with ceramics, paintings, sculptural pieces and paintings.
3. Ending with a Japanese artist who was born at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) when Japan opened up to the West and western ideas, western perspective.
KAMISAKA SEKKA:RINPA TRADITIONALIST, MODERN DESIGNER
Marks, Andreas, Petaluma, 2012
3Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942) was one of Japan’s leading artist, designer and art instructor. He led the revival of the 17th century Rinpa style while at the same time  creating modern designs  in ceramics, lacquer ware, textiles and woodblock prints, combining Japanese and Western design influences.  I especially admire his woodblock prints which can be bold and elegant at the same time. The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California  had an exhibition about Kamisaka Sekka in summer  2012 featuring his paintings, scrolls and prints.
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Read and Enjoy!
Elisabeth and Natasha