The magnificent collection of ancient art celebrated in this volume is a selection of the holdings of the Shumei Family, a religious organization based in Japan. The emphasis, in the works included here, is on antiquities that originated in different areas of the ancient world—namely, the Mediterranean, the Near East, and China. Although the objects are eclectic, and range from powerful to jewel-like in their delicacy, the quality of the works of art in the Shumei Family Collection shines through in every detail. Whether we focus on the silver and gold cult figure of a deity from thirteenth-century-B.C. Egypt; Achaemenid silver vessels from fifth-century-B.C. Iran; or gold, bronze, and iron garment hooks, inset with gems and semi-precious stones, from third-century-B.C. China, their exquisite beauty and refinement never fail to dazzle the eye.
Before the Shumei Family's Miho Museum—designed by world-renowned architect I. M. Pei, and currently under construction in Shigaraki, a suburb of Kyoto—is inaugurated in the fall of 1997, and the works of art discussed here are permanently installed in their new home, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have welcomed the opportunity to introduce highlights of the collection to their respective publics. The credo of the founder of the Shinji Shumeikai centers around the belief that beautiful objects elevate the spirit and, therefore, that they were created to be shared. In keeping with this philosophy, both reader and museum visitor can take delight in the collection, savoring the treasures firsthand on exhibition and, concurrently, in the lavish color illustrations that grace these pages.
The cogent texts represent the collaboration of a broad spectrum of curators, art historians, and conservators; more than twenty scholars examine the objects in detail and provide illuminating insights for the reader. An Appendix includes technical examinations of a number of the works as well as descriptions of their materials and methods of manufacture. A Selected Bibliography and an Index follow.