Press release

Colors of the Universe: Chinese Hardstone Carvings

Colors of the Universe: Chinese Hardstone Carvings

June 25, 2016–October 9, 2017

Installation Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 222, Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for Chinese Decorative Arts

Showcasing a selection of 75 exquisite carvings drawn from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colors of the Universe: Chinese Hardstone Carvings will present the lapidary art of China’s Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Presenting not only jade, the most esteemed of East Asian gems, but also agate, malachite, turquoise, quartz, amber, coral, and lapis lazuli, the exhibition will reveal the extensive variety of hardstones and full palette of vibrant colors that were favored at the imperial court. Exploring the diverse subjects and styles of Qing lapidary art, Colors of the Universe will illustrate the extraordinary imagination and technical virtuosity behind these miniature sculptures. The installation will open June 25.

The exhibition is made possible by the Joseph Hotung Fund.

Highlights of Colors of the Universe will include a masterfully executed red-coral sculpture, Daoist Immortal and a Boy, depicting a mother and child, which will be juxtaposed with Lion with a Cub, carved out of bright blue lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan. Snuff bottles, a final category of objects included in the exhibition, were inspired by the introduction of the Western custom of inhaling pulverized tobacco.

Hardstone carving is one of the oldest arts in China, dating back to the fifth millennium B.C. It was not until the Qing dynasty, however, that an abundant supply of raw material, extraordinary craftsmanship, and keen imperial patronage allowed the art to flourish. During the 18th century, widespread prosperity and successful military campaigns brought political stability, while also securing the trade routes that permitted the importation of gemstones over the Silk Roads and through sea trade routes from as far away as Europe.

The exhibition is organized by Jason Sun, Brooke Russell Astor Curator of Chinese Art in the Department of Asian Art at The Met.

The exhibition will be featured on The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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May 17, 2016

Image: Water dropper in the shape of a crane, 18th century. China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Carnelian and white agate; H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm), W. 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Heber R. Bishop, 1902 (02.18.876a, b)

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