british museum

Percival David: more porcelains from the Imperial collection

(For Chopin Competition coverage, scroll down).

David’s background was a Jewish family in British India, but originating in Baghdad. His father, Sir Sassoon David, was an important businessman in Bombay (now Mumbai), and a banker, being a founder of the Bank of India.

The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art is a collection of Chinese ceramics and related items in London, England. The Foundation’s main purpose is to promote the study and teaching of Chinese art and culture. The Collection consists of some 1,700 pieces of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing porcelain from the 10th century to the 18th. It includes examples of the rare Ru and Guan wares and two important Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelain temple vases (the “David Vases”) the oldest dated blue and white porcelain objects, from 1351 A.D. It also holds a large library of Western and East Asian books related to Chinese art. In 1950 the Collection was presented to the University of London and has been displayed at the British Museum.

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Percival David, London: some porcelains from the Imperial Collection

The main reason to visit London, of course, is the Percival David collection, now housed in a newly built, beautiful exhibit in the British Museum.  I’ve spent many afternoons there and will spread my photo-report over a few posts.  Here’s the fist.  Now, back to Chopin, fellas.


British Museum: The Portland Vase

A piece of virtuouso Roman glass cameo, unmatched by modern efforts to reproduce it (the Northwood vase at the Corning cracked in firing); recorded since 16th century; father to Wedgwood’s Jasperware; it passed through the hands of William Hamilton; and made him a fortune which — probably only partially — made up for the loss of his collection at sea. Etc. Read about it here.


More Athenians have been spotted at the British Museum

Surely, these photos are the least satisfactory I have ever posted anywhere. The reflective glass aside, camera’s single lens is simply an inappropriate instrument with which to view figure-decorated pottery. The human eye — because there are two of them a few inches apart — sees more of the decoration at any time. Take for instance the alabastron below: it’s about 8 inches high and when you view it, you see probably something like 160 degrees around its surface; while the camera sees less than 90. Similar problems arise with amphorae where part of the decoration lies above the fold: photos can show us either the lower part, or the upper part, never both. When viewing the real thing, we suffer from similar limitations and end up craning our necks, but somehow, our brain corrects for the movement of the head and we have the impression of apprehending the whole picture.

Makes one wonder how the clever Chinese knew to avoid, by and large, large figure decoration on their ceramics.


Androkides made me

This amphora is easily one of the most beautiful potted jars I have ever seen. The quality of the potting must have made an impression on the potter himself — one Androkides — because he signed it. It is thought to have been painted by one Psiax (one hell of a name to live down in elementary, I should imagine) and was found… in the once Etruscan town of Vulci.

Which is why my archeologists-ancestor’s contemporaries thought all this stuff to be Etruscan.

Several vases potted by Andokides survive — as well as a shard found in Acropolis which suggests that he was one of several sponsors of a bronze statue there: his potting made him rich as well as famous.