Jar with the story of Guiguzi, Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration, Diameter, 33 cm, Private collection.
Cosmological Mandala with Mount Meru, Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, Silk tapestry, Warp 83.3 x 83.3 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Fletcher Fund and Joseph E. Hotung and Michael and Danielle Rosenberg Gifts, 1989, 1989.140.
Arhat, Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, Mid 14th century, Wood with traces of pigment, H. 98.1 cm, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Khubilai Khan as the First Yuan Emperor, Shizu, Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, Album leaf, Ink and color on silk, 59.1 x 47.6 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
The Tisch Galleries, second floor
The World of Khubilai Khan:
Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty
September 28, 2010-January 2, 2011
The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents a major international loan exhibition devoted to the art of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) — one of the most dynamic and culturally rich periods in Chinese history — beginning September 28. Bringing together over 200 works drawn principally from China, with additional loans from Taiwan, Japan, Europe, Russia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty explores the art and material culture that flourished during the pivotal and vibrant period in Chinese culture and history dating from 1215, the year of Khubilai Khan's birth, to 1368, the fall of the Yuan dynasty. The assemblage of extraordinary works includes paintings and sculpture, as well as decorative arts in gold and silver, textile, ceramics, and lacquer, and the exhibition highlights new art forms and styles that were generated in China as a result of the unification of the country under the Yuan dynasty, founded by Khubilai in 1271. The loans from China include key pieces from recent archaeological finds which add immeasurably to our knowledge and understanding of Chinese art of this period
Organized thematically, the exhibition is presented in four parts. It opens with a section on daily life illustrating the appearance of things in China during the Yuan dynasty, particularly at the imperial court and the capital cities: Coleridge's Xanadu (Shangdu) and Dadu (present-day Beijing). It includes portraits of emperors and their consorts, architectural elements in stone and pottery, costumes, jewelry, and other luxury items for daily use. This section provides the visitor with a very good idea of what greeted the eyes of Marco Polo when he first reached Dadu (Khanbaligh), the capital of the Great Khan Khubilai.
The next section features paintings and sculpture relating to various religions practiced in Yuan China, including Buddhism, Daoism, Nestorian Christianity, Islam, Manichaeism, and Hinduism. Nestorian Christianity and Manichaeism, which are not well known nowadays in the U.S. and Europe, flourished in Central Asia for centuries and on and off in China. The last period of the practice of these religions was in the Yuan period.
Paintings and calligraphy of every major artist and school of the period are also featured in the exhibition. Highlights of this third section are two paintings datable to the period between the Mongols' initial incursion into north China in 1215 and the conquest of the Southern Song in 1276; they are put in a proper context in Chinese art history for the first time in an exhibition.
The final section of the exhibition concentrates on the decorative arts, with emphasis on porcelain, lacquer, and textiles. The beginning and early development of underglaze decorated porcelain is presented by important examples, particularly blue-and-white, which eventually became a universal type of porcelain in both Asia and Europe up to the present time. Textiles are represented by luxury silks from Central Asia and China — apart from their visual appeal, they also demonstrate the exchange of motifs and weaving techniques between China and the Iranian world. A magnificent example on view is the "cloth of gold," made famous over the world by travelers to Yuan China such as Marco Polo. A highly unusual carpet woven in the tradition of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes, with a Chinese motif surrounded by a Kufic border, is also included in this section.
The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum and distributed by Yale University Press.
The World of Khubilai Khan is organized by James C. Y. Watt, Brooke Russell Astor Chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art.
Belt Slide, Jin or Yuan dynasty, 12-14th century, Jade (nephrite), L: 6.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, 1991, 1991.483.
Beggar-Singer with Hound, Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, Hanging Scroll, Ink and color on silk, 76.5 x 36.2 cm, Museum for East Asian Art, Cologne.