“The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art was opened on 10 June 1952 by the Chancellor of the University of London, the Earl of Athlone, accompanied by his wife, Her Royal Highness The Princess Alice. In his opening address, the Chancellor said: “Two years ago, Sir Percival David made to the University his magnificent gift, the Collection of Chinese Ceramics and the Library of Chinese and Western books that he had built up over the course of twenty years with such care and taste. In return the University has provided a worthy home for these treasures. It is not often that we have the honour and the pleasure of the presence of the benefactor when the time comes for others to enjoy the fruits of his generosity; but I trust that Sir Percival David may long be with us to aid us with his profound knowledge of Chinese Art and to appreciate the enjoyment and stimulus which his gift will undoubtedly provide.
” The Times of 6 June, commenting on this splendid acquisition, said: “The University of London has received many notable gifts since its foundation in 1836, but it has seldom received a benefaction of wider or more general interests than that recently bestowed upon it by Sir Percival David.” The Collection comprises some 1,400 items of Chinese ceramics of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, that is, from the 10th to the 18th century. (.) Certainly in its superlative quality the Collection is unparalleled except by the former Imperial Collection, now in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Indeed some pieces in the David Collection had been acquired from the former Imperial Collection. The Collection is also extremely rich in documentary pieces, having a higher percentage of marked and inscribed specimens than any other in the World, many of the inscriptions being documents of prime importance. A number of Song pieces are engraved with poems and comments composed by the Qing emperor Qianlong, expressing his admiration for them. Even more important are the specimens with inscriptions contemporary with their manufacture, for these throw light on many facets of Chinese culture. Assembled under ideal conditions by a connoisseur with a restlessly probing mind and keen aesthetic judgment, the Collection is an invaluable source of information on the art, history, philosophy , literature and traditions of the Chinese people in a period spanning almost one thousand years. “ from the introduction by Lady David.
Published by School of Oriental & African Studies, 1989
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