NEW YORK.- The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China, on view through July 10, 2005 at the Herbert and Florence Irving Galleries for Chinese Decorative Arts. Featuring some 50 extraordinary works of art, Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China will explore a crucial moment in the development of imperial Chinese art, and its relationship to later traditions. On view will be sculptures, paintings, lacquers, metalwork, ceramics, textiles, and ivories created in the imperial workshops during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-1424). Important recent acquisitions such as a gilt-bronze sculpture, Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, and a rare lacquer sutra box with incised gold decoration (qiangjin) will be presented along with 12 works (embroidered silks and works in cloisonné, ivory, and lacquer) acquired since 1990. Fifteen loans, many from New York collections, will supplement 33 objects drawn from the Metropolitan Museums permanent collection.
The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are made possible by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation.
The Yongle Emperor has been revered and at times reviled as one of the most powerful and effective rulers of the Ming dynasty (13681644). His reign was punctuated by vigorous military campaigns that pushed the Mongols back into Mongolia and that expanded his empire south into Vietnam, as well as by six historically unprecedented maritime expeditions, one of which reached the east coast of Africa. The emperor moved the capital from the south to the north and established the Forbidden City in Beijing (the northern capital), incorporating the complex built earlier by Khubilai Khan (1215-1294). He created a new military noble class and shaped the intellectual outlook of the intelligentsia by commissioning influential compendia of classic texts.
Paintings, sculptures, textiles, ceramics, and other media produced during his reign illustrate an imperial aesthetic that influenced Chinese taste until the end of the 18th century. Diplomatic and economic relations between China and Islamic centers such as that of the Mamluk Empire (12601526), based in Egypt and Syria, are reflected in the introductions of new shapes and motifs in porcelain as well as in new techniques. The emperors interest in Tibetan Buddhism can be seen through the style and imagery of sculptures, ritual implements, and textiles produced at the court for use in religious ceremonies, and as gifts to visiting clerics. These gifts, as well as Chinese paintings and ceramics, played an important role in the development of Tibetan art during the second half of the 15th century.
Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China will be accompanied by a catalogue.
A variety of education programs will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition, including gallery talks and family programs, as well as a Sunday at the Met program consisting of a lecture and a film on May 15.
The exhibition will be co-organized by Denise Patry Leidy, Associate Curator, and James C. Y. Watt, Brooke Russell Astor Chairman, both in the Department of Asian Art. Graphic design is by Barbara Weiss, Graphic Designer, and lighting by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Lighting Designers, all of the Museums Design Department.