Treasures

London gallery 2 — 9 November; Lisbon gallery 15 November — 7 December

Celebrating its 20th annual exhibition, Jorge Welsh Works of Art brings together three exceptional treasures of Chinese export art: one of the largest collections of 18th-century Chinese snuff boxes on record, an extraordinary pair of Yongzheng famille rose vases, and an enigmatic and rare enamel-on-copper staff.

Treasures explores examples of the most unusual and high-quality custom orders produced by Chinese artists for the West, illustrating how these precious objects were as highly valued then as they are today. The exhibition will be accompanied by three individual specialist catalogues: Pocket Treasures: Snuff Boxes from Past Times, The Vases of the Hundred Treasures, and Timeless Treasure: the Runic Calendar Staff.

• Pocket Treasures: Snuff Boxes from Past Times

An extraordinary large selection of Chinese export snuff boxes forms the foundation for a study of these portable containers for powdered tobacco. Made in Europe in a variety of materials since the 17th century, snuff boxes were commissioned by private individuals and merchants of the European trading companies in China from the first half of the 18th century onwards. As illustrated by the selection, snuff boxes were often made after western designs and models, although Asian themes were also painted on snuff boxes made for export. Over 60 pieces made of porcelain and enamelled copper are featured in this exhibition and accompanying catalogue.

The Vases of the ‘Hundred Treasures’

Made during the Yongzheng period (1723-1735) and decorated in lavish famille rose enamels, or fencai 粉彩 (‘soft colours’), the pair of vases of the ‘hundred treasures’ were made to suit foreign tastes and are among the finest examples of Chinese export porcelain.  Similar to 17th century ceramics that were intended to be purchased in China by foreign customers, they combine a subject matter and materials that were Chinese in origin, with a shape and rendition that were favoured in Europe. Western designations for the ‘hundred treasures’ subject derive in a literal sense from the Chinese expression baibao 百寶, in which bai or ‘hundred’ stands for ‘many’, although the subject itself is historically known in China as ‘antique objects’ or bogu 博古. Visually similar to the European ‘still life’ genre, bogu is more specific in that the objects depicted have a high value because of their age, quality and provenance, and in addition, produce numerous auspicious wishes.

• Timeless Treasure: The Runic Calendar Staff

The Runic Calendar Staff is part of the small group of custom-made copper objects made for westerners in China during the 18th century. The function of this staff as walking aid appears to have been secondary to its importance as status symbol and timekeeping device. Indeed, runic calendar staffs are so called due to the theme of their decoration, which comprises inscriptions with runes forming a perpetual calendar, or almanac. Portable calendars were first made and used by peasants in Scandinavia since at least the 12th century. They assumed various shapes, ranging from wooden sticks to incised metal swords, and soon formed a significant part of Scandinavian folklore. The introduction of printed almanacs in the 17th century contributed to the progressive abandonment of runic staffs, which were later revived at the turn of the 18th century following a renewed support by Swedish monarchs. The present staff was made after a Swedish model and is one of only five Chinese examples that appear to have survived. The remaining four are located in State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, State Historical Museum in Moscow, Europäischer Kulturen Museum of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, and Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 


Dates & Location

LONDON

Open Evening
Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 5 to 9 pm

Exhibition
2nd — 9th November
Monday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
Sunday by appointment

Address
116 Kensington Church Street
London W8 4BH, UK

LISBON

Opening
Thursday, 14th November 2019, 6 pm

Exhibition
15th November — 7th December 
Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm

Address
Rua da Misericórdia 43
1200-270 Lisboa, Portugal