The bronzes of Imperial China, from Song (960-1279) to Qing (1644-1911)
17 / 10 / 2013, Conference Tour The bronzes of Imperial China, from Song (960-1279) to Qing (1644-1911) at the Cernuschi Museum by Madame Trâm Journet.
This set is one of the objects acquired by H. Cernuschi during his travels in Asia. These bronzes are part of what is called the antique or archaic style. This exhibition highlights certain points: the relationship to rites, the forgery and the heritage of the past. A stamping of an engraved stone from the Han dynasty (202 BC-220 AD) illustrates the symbolic cultural importance of bronze vases in the eyes of the rulers of China. The first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (221-207 BC), to establish his legitimacy, launched an expedition to find nine ritual bronze vessels of the Zhou dynasty (1-046 BC) made from sent metal of all the provinces of the kingdom. We will find them in a loop of the Yellow River but a dragon would have appeared and would have caused the vases to disappear again because the first emperor was not considered a good sovereign. The bronze vases have a symbolism that will develop even more from the tenth century because the function and the exercise of power will change. The first Song emperors (221-960 AD) will relaunch examinations and promote the study of ancient texts which reveals the figure of the civil servant. These scholars will be the cornerstone of the imperial administration and the new imperial figure will be built thanks to the ancient rites linked to the Imperial Ancestors, to Heaven and to the Earth, which will make it possible to link the sovereign to an ancient past and to to establish the dynasty. Some ancient texts like the Zhou li (Rites of Zhou) compiled under the Han, will be studied in order to recreate the ceremonies. The San li you (Illustrated Treatise of the Three Rituals) is the first illustrated text showing what we imagine to be the vases used for rites. Under the Song, we will also discover fortuitously old vases and study them which allows to edit the Bo gu tu (Illustrated Catalog of Antiquities) with a faithful representation of the vases. Bronzes such as painting and calligraphy become among the most expensive objects and most sought after by scholars and collectors. Three tripod jugs Thu illustrate the evolution of forms over time: the first (cat. 1), from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), remains very close to the ancient model with its almost straight feet, the second (cat. 2), from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), rounded and the feet are very curved, the third (cat. 4), from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) shows a simplification of the decoration. Depending on the school, we must celebrate the rites with exactly the same vases, except for the shape and decoration, or celebrate the rites, it is more the spirit of the rites that counts and we can have small variations. A vase bian 10 dated 1483 is consistent with the description of the San li you which explains that the utensil must be in basketry because
he transposes a basketry decoration into bronze. A vase two (9 cat.) dated 1118 raises the issue of dating because its style and inscription seem later. We try to give these bronzes an antique character without making systematic fake because they are often not copies. The technique of casting is different since from the eleventh century is used lost-wax cast instead of the use of multiple molds, the rarefaction of copper favoring the lost-wax casting that requires less metal. Sometimes we are dealing with real counterfeits like a vase zun (cat. 11) from the 319th-XNUMXth centuries. which presents a thick green patina and marks imitating the cutting of a quadripartite mold. An inscription engraved from left to right, which is unusual, refers to a descendant of the kingdom of Shu who established a kingdom in Vietnam around XNUMX AD. JC, but the engraving has crossed the patina and shows a gray metal. To give an antique aspect to the objects, the patina is the subject of studies and we mainly use two techniques: the "cold method" which produces a thick patina composed of a kind of black corrosion covered with a semi-translucent layer. brown in color (vase Thu cat. 13) while the "hot method" produces a patina integrated into the body of the object. In addition, pigments resulting from the oxidation of bronze can be fixed using lacquer or wax. The taste for certain patinas will evolve over time and under the Song we tend to look for brown or reddish brown patinas "pot color" while under the Ming and Qing the "pot color" is in competition with the "color of dried tea. », Medium or dark brown. Under the Ming, a patina made up of irregular brown or black spots forms a shiny film (mud gui Cat. 20) while another has an almost black, often shiny (vase hu Cat. 87). A vase you (cat 30) of the Qing (XVIIe-XVIIIe s.) extremely faithful to the antique model has a patina in which one finds zinc, but the bottom has a pale green patina different from the body and an inscription in conformity with those of Shang. It seems that the bottom of an old vase was used to recreate a "real fake". A vase gong (cat 22) of the XIVefifteenthe s. is formed of a rather thin layer of yellow metal that could have been worked repoussé and coated with a waxy mixture tinged with green which tends to crumble. A Thu (cat 34) of the XVIIIe-XIXe s. is remarkable for the quality of the imitation: the cicada pattern under the beak offers an offset
It is unique to multiple molds, the legs are aligned according to the antique type, but the somewhat clumsy inscription has been engraved in the wax of the model. From the XIVe the rites will be rendered using a vase, no longer in bronze, but in a less luxurious material. The first Ming emperor, Hongwu, decreed in 1369 that porcelain vases would now be used instead of bronze vases. The bronze will therefore leave the official sphere to integrate a more intimate sphere which will be the interior of the scholar; from the ceremonial function, bronze objects will become smaller decorative objects. From the Ming vases will move away more and more from the original models. The celestial bird-shaped vase tianjizun or celestial rooster (48 cat) from the Qianlong period (1735-1796) refers to a classical form but is adorned with decorative effects such as gilding. The zoomorphic vases will integrate the interior of the literati as the vase xizun (cat 42) in the form of tapir of XVIeand seventeenthe s with its incrustations of gold and silver. As it has been said, from the Song, the scholars who replaced the great aristocrats in the management of the empire become an economic power. These scholars will create collections, either as part of their function or in a private setting and they will influence the tastes. A showcase shows the "treasures of the literate", brush holder, brush wash and drip which, normally made of ceramic, are here in bronze to accompany the ink stone. A perfume burner Xianglu (cat 74) adorned with fantastic birds (fenhuangThe gilded door bears a mark dating back to the Xuande (1425-1435) Ming period but is probably posterior to a century.
Another perfume burner Xianlu (cat 81) decorated with dragons, clouds and waves, typical of the XVIIe s. a copy of which was found in a tomb dating from 1675, also bears the mark of Xuande des Ming. The use of the mark Xuande here refers to an extremely brilliant reign. Three incense holders (cat 89) from the 17th-18th centuries. illustrate the gradual distance from the ancient models in both form and decor. Two vases with arrows touhu (cat 102 and 103) of the 16th century. refer to a very old game dating back to the Zhou Dynasty but the decor is whimsical and cat. 103 is adorned with Taoist immortals around the gods of Longevity, Happiness and Prosperity. Bronze objects will still be used in domestic Buddhist and Daoist worship. A complete series of the eight immortals in gilt bronze (cat 105) of XVIeand seventeenthe s. illustrates this private use well. The mirrors that have a magic value will return to the antique form but with a more modern decor. The reverse side of MC2205 (cat 116) of XIe s. bears later inscriptions in Arabic in connection with the signs of the zodiac. A mirror (cat 104) of the XIVe s. The eight immortals crossing the sea are illustrated. These mirrors have a magic value and are supposed to protect evil spirits who, renowned for their ugliness, flee when they see themselves in the mirror. The shape and the decoration of the basins pan that were used to present offerings have evolved over the centuries. If the basin (cat. 94) of the Xi Xia dynasty (1032-1227) remains relatively sober despite an abundant decoration, that (cat. 97) of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) presents a polylobed outline and a decoration birds and foliage. Perhaps the large dishes decorated with cobalt blue from Jingdezhen, the manufacture of which did not begin until the 1873th century. were they inspired by those in bronze. All the bronzes presented in this exhibition come from purchases made by H. Cernuschi during his travels in the East and only represent a small part of the one thousand five hundred pieces presented in XNUMX at the Palais de l'Industrie in Paris which are still today. hui in the reserves of the Cernuschi Museum.