Exhibition dates: 18 August 2018 – 10 February 2019
This is the first major international exhibition to explore the role of empresses in China’s grand imperial era — the Qing dynasty, from 1644 to 1912. Nearly 200 works, including imperial portraits, jewellery, garments, Buddhist sculptures and decorative art objects from the Palace Museum, Beijing (known as the Forbidden City), tell the little-known stories of how these women influenced art, religion, court politics and international diplomacy.
The Qing imperial court was strictly patriarchal and hierarchical. The empress’ primary duty was to bear a son to continue the imperial line, but she was more than the borrowed womb of the dynasty. She also headed the imperial harem and could influence the emperor. She was regarded as the “mother of the state” and a role model for all women.
Moving boldly against the tradition that “women shall not rule,” some empresses took more direct control of state affairs in challenging times. Presiding over the state ritual of promoting silk production and the textile industry, empresses honoured women’s vital economic health of the state. A number of empresses played a prominent role in art patronage and religious activities. They did not bind their feet and could learn to ride and hunt.
For more details visit the website of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachusetts
Exhibition dates: 17 October 2015 – 17 January 2016
At the start of the Golden Age, Dutch merchants used their business acumen to establish lucrative trade agreements with Asia. This trade saw all sorts of exotic treasures, such as porcelain, lacquer ware, ebony, ivory and silk, arriving in the Dutch Republic, where no one had ever seen such design and materials before. Asia in Amsterdam shares the sensation that these luxury items caused, while also presenting the history behind this first global market. When Dutch ships sailed the entire globe, when young men risked their lives to become rich in Batavia, and when the phrase ‘Made in China’ meant something else altogether. Amsterdam played a central role in the story: the capital city became the marketplace for Asian luxury goods. And not just for the republic, but for all of Europe.
The exhibition also presents many seventeenth-century paintings: still-lifes and portraits of citizens who had themselves painted among their newly acquired items of Asian luxury; for example, men who wanted to be truly fashionable had their portraits painted wearing a silk ‘Japanese skirt’, which was a long loose-fitting silk coat, such as the one worn by Amsterdam pharmacist Johannes Hudde in the portrait of him by Michiel van Musscher in 1686.
The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, USA, and will travel there next, opening in February 2016. Loan items originate in such far-flung places as Moscow, St Petersburg, Versailles, London, Oxford, Madrid and Stockholm.
For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.