Wood-carved, standing male figure 40 inches in height. Its shoulders and torso are impaled with iron blades, nails and fragments. The torso is long, arms at side are bent at elbow and hands rest on lower abdomen. The right wrist wears a bracelet with attachments. The legs are truncated, with twisted metal anklet on right foot. The face is naturalistic, the mouth slightly open, the nose long and narrow with slightly flared nostrils. Eyes are almost shaped, may have had inlay that is now gone. The top of the head shows a tiered, "layer cake like" coiffure. The figure has a long and deep crack down the entire length of its left side, from top of the head to the left ankle.
An nkisi is a spirit personality or force with the power to harm, heal or protect. It was summoned by a medicinal specialist or nganga, who used figures such as this to materialize the nkisi, make it approachable, and activate its powers. The nkondi (meaning "hunter") was the most aggressive and feared type of nkisi, which used its clairvoyance and powers of destruction to hunt down and punish witches, criminals, and other wrong-doers. By pounding a blade or nail into its body, the nganga aroused the nkondi, and sent it on its nocturnal pursuit. The nkondi’s other job was to witness the taking of oaths and bind individuals to their word. Blades were driven into the figure to “seal” a pact or treaty that was made in its presence. Any person who failed to respect such an agreement would suffer the nkondi’s violent retribution.
This is a large and valuable Nkisi male figure. They are quite rare. The nails and blades are original and it has a small attached figure on one wrist, hung on the dagger representing a lesser spirit to reinforce its power. The original fetish bundle from teh mid section and the inlaid eyes are missing. There is a large crack from wear through the right hand side of the figure, and the feet are too simply carved without toes. Each blade is utilized to reinforce an oath. This object is old and of good size, but it lacks the refinement and overwhelming power of the finest examples.
Like the jarlet in this same case, this vessel is decorated with a peony spray and a “cloud collar” of highly abstracted ruyi scepter heads at the neck. The similarity shows how certain popular patterns could be repeated again and again. Here, the potter’s greater ambitions were foiled when the pot sagged to one side during firing.
A blackware bowl with black on black decoration. The bowl is nearly spherical in profile, with a narrow and wide mouth. Around the upper half is a feather design, which looks like individual feathers hanging down from the mouth forming a ring around the circumference.
A fusion of traditional Pueblo pottery techniques with art deco detail, within a black on black art object.
March 28, 2009
A skilled potter, Martinez spent the majority of her life making and teaching three generations of her family to make pots. In collaboration with her husband, Julian Martinez, she studied and recreated ancient ceramics, experimenting with firing and finishing techniques and producing vessels with a unique ebony finish. Martinez reintroduced to her people the art of pottery making, which was facing extinction, and her style became world famous.
Coiled, smoothed, and shaped by Maria, this pot has a swollen belly that yields at either end to a tapered lip and foot. The vessel has been carefully burnished, a process by which a smooth stone is rubbed against the pot’s surface prior to firing in order to align the clay particles. As a result the fired pots are lustrous and have a glossy sheen. The contrasting matte effect is achieved by painting slip (liquid clay) onto the pot after it has been burnished. In accord with the traditional division of labor, Julian usually applied decorative elements after Maria had completed the vessel. He called the geometric design of this pot “stylized feathers.
This radiant, crowned, bejeweled, and youthful Buddha, with long locks piled high on his head and wearing a loincloth-like dhoti, evokes the appearance and manner of an Indian prince rather than a simple monk. Representations of Buddha as a prince come out of a tradition that stressed the royal origins of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, before he abandoned secular life. The imagery of a more “godlike” Buddha emerged in the late seventh to early eighth century in India as a response to the growing popularity of Hinduism. Not surprisingly, these resplendent images appealed to great emperors and petty princes alike and, from Tibet to Indonesia to China and Japan, they dominated the great royal Buddhist temples of the eighth century.
This particular image is identified as Vairocana (Great Radiance) by his gesture of clasping his left forefinger with his right hand, symbolizing the philosophical notion of “the union of six elements”: earth, air, fire, water, and wood, all subsumed into the mind. It was made in Japan, probably in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, in a style that consciously looks back to the work of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The image and its halo and dais are all carved from wood that was hollowed out, coated with gesso, and then lacquered and gilded. When new, the ensemble would have been a dazzling gold, but it has taken on a beautiful patina as the gilding has worn away.
(Label for UMMA Japanese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)
48.26 cm x 15.24 cm x 12.7 cm (19 in. x 6 in. x 5 in.)
Chinese ceramic Sancai figure of a man in robes and tall hat on his head, standing on an octagonal platform. The figure is painted; the robes and cuffs of the sleeves are a dark green color, and the sleeves and under robe are a reddish orange color. The hat of the figure is also colored white and reddish orange. The head of the figure can detache from the body of the figure.
This dish features a recessed center with a central boss decorated with a rosette design. The recessed area and rim are painted with floral motifs and leaf designs arranged in concentric rings.
This dish is a later example of Spanish lusterware, a type of glazed earthenware first produced in Christian Europe by Muslim artists working in fourteenth-century Spain. This type of ware was valued for both the opaque white glaze that provided an unrivaled background for more colorful painted decoration and the luster glaze produced by a final firing, which gave the ceramics an attractive metallic iridescence. By the fifteenth century, such lusterwares were produced in several centers in Christian Spain and were exported widely. Although Christian artists took over the production of such lusterwares during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the designs on later dishes still reveal this Islamic heritage.
March 28, 2009
The two dishes exhibited here are later examples of Spanish lusterware, one of the most important traditions in the art of European ceramics. During the fourteenth century, Muslim artists who immigrated to the Kingdom of Valencia (a region under Christian rule on the east coast of Spain) began to manufacture a special type of ceramic ware that had a long tradition in Islamic kingdoms, but had not been produced in Christian Europe for many centuries. What distinguished their ceramics was not the ceramic itself, but the opaque-white glaze that provided an unrivaled background for more colorful painted decoration and the luster glaze produced by a final firing, which gave the ceramics an attractive metallic iridescence. By the fifteenth century, such lusterwares were produced in several centers in Christian Spain and were exported widely. Although Christian artists took over the production of such lusterwares during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the designs on later dishes reveal this Islamic heritage. The popularity of lusterware led Italian artists to start producing their own lusterwares, known as maiolica, in the sixteenth century. The use of the opaque-white glaze first introduced to Christian Europe through Spain spread even more widely to other centers of ceramic production throughout Europe, where it was used for many types of wares, including faience in France and Delftware in Holland.
21 cm x 20 cm x 10.5 cm (8 1/4 in. x 7 7/8 in. x 4 1/8 in.)
Flask-shaped bottle with short, narrow neck. Bamboo leaves design in brown color is applied on one shoulder toward the bottom. The porous surface of white glaze shows the orange color of the clay. The spout is narrow and has an elevated rim. The foot is short and glazed.
The flask bottle is perhaps intended to be displayed by itself, but not for practical use. The bamboo leaves are painted with quick brushstroke.
5. Katô Takuo
Shino ware flask-shaped bottle
Showa period (1926–1989)
Stoneware with white feldspathic glaze and iron underglaze painting
Museum purchase, 1963/2.69
(Turning Point exhibition, Spring 2010)
Shino ware was first developed in the sixteenth century, in direct response to the exploding market for tea ceremony vessels. Potters in the mountains of Mino discovered a new vein of clay and developed new glaze formulas, especially favoring the porous, milky white feldspathic glaze seen here. When thinly applied, the iron in the glaze stains it red, giving it a much-admired "scorched" effect.
Katô Takuo was one of the most prominent studio potters of the twentieth century, as well as an astute student of ceramic history. Katô demonstrates here his control of Momoyama Shino glazing and firing techniques. The bottle shape, on the other hand, is not typical of Shino ware; by putting the two together, Katô proclaims his own creativity and independence from models.
Exhibited in "Japanese Costumes & Ceramics, Past & Present," October 2001-February 2002. Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
This oval-shaped ceramic vessel features a wide, steep rim surrounding a large well in the center. The scalloped edges of the rim are cut back into a deep semicircle on one side. The rim is painted in underglaze blue and yellow with plant and floral motifs that are arranged in a whimsical, asymmetrical fashion around the edge. The well is decorated with similar vegetal motifs and two vaguely stork-like birds with long legs that confront one another on a strip of turf.
The deep semicircle cut into one side of this barber's basin allowed it to be held close to a client's neck while being shaved by the barber. The style of informal decoration on this plate was developed around 1740 by Joseph Olérys, the owner of a faience factory in Moustiers near Marseilles in southern France.
March 28, 2009
The deep semicircle cut into one side of this barber’s basin allowed it to be held close to a client’s neck while being shaved by the barber. The whimsical, asymmetrical arrangement of the animal and plant motifs around the basin and the combination of yellow, blue, and green are typical of the faience created at the factory established in 1738 by Joseph Olérys in the French town of Moustiers. Located approximately sixty miles north of the southern coastal city of Marseille, Moustiers boasted large deposits of rich clay that made it a center of fine pottery production since the late seventeenth century. Whereas earlier faience in Moustiers was decorated only in blue underglazing, Olérys brought with him knowledge of how to produce yellows and greens that he had learned at the Alcora pottery factory near Valencia, Spain. The popularity of his technical and artistic innovations made his faience the most widely imitated of all Moustiers pottery.
Flat raffia mat with woven geometric, diamond-lke pattern of interlocking lines in green, natural and purple.
The Kuba are renowned for their elaborate, geomtrical surface designs. One of the most impressive expressions of this aesthetic is cloth made from raffia fiber. In the 19th century, decorated raffia cloth was a marker of prestige, used as currency, to pay tribute, settle legal disputes, and in public displays such as the funerals of high-ranking titleholders—a practice that continues today. Produced also for the international market, Kuba cloth—and imitations of its designs—can be found in shops and private collections all over the world. This type of mat was used for sitting, sleeping or as a burial cloth. It was also used as a form of moveable architecture to define spaces for special events such as royal visits. The purple ink was probably derived using ink from discarded ditto machines.
Throughout central Africa, there is a resonance between a cultures's two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphic and sculptural arts. For Kuba, Kongo, Luba, and other societies with pre-colonial kingdoms, for example, the same patterns that appear on the body as scarifications are often woven into mats, used on the walls and floors, and carved into wooden house panels and supports. The outsides of both house and body are thresholds to the secrets held within, and encode esoteric knowledge pertaining to royal history and culture. Some patterns are "signature" motifs referring to a particular king, while others bear names referring to proverbs or social relationships.
This hour-glass shaped stool is supported by two caryatid figures who sit in a pose of lamentation—crouched with head in hands. Scarified patterned abstracted tears spill from their lower eyelids. Brass studs adorn the perimeter of the stool’s seat, base, and figures. Both figures wear strings of black, red and white beads around their necks.
Stools like this rarely come out in public. At stately events, stools have animal skins over them, concealing the iconography from view. This stool is carved by a songi or master court sculptor. The power and public secrecy of the stool is such that songi carve royal seats in seclusion away from non-initiates and women. While sculpting, professional carvers strive for minimal design or utombo, which can capture the complexities of Chokwe cultural values.
The stool is well detailed and expressive with two seated figures with hands to their faces. The figures represent the chief's ancestors, as symbols of authority and prestige. The brass tacks show it belonged to a chief.
Lacquered wooden box with inlaid mother-of-pearl in double-dragon design. The heads of each dragon stretch diagonally inward from opposite corners of the box, with wide eyes and open mouths. Their bodies curve in and out of the top plane of the box, creating an opposing effect with symmetrical balance. The dragons reach forward towards a flaming orb in the center of the box, called a cintamani, or Buddhist wish-granting jewel. Among the dragons are swirling cloud designs made of inlaid nacre and copper wire.
Box decorated with double-dragons reaching for cintamani (Buddhist wish-granting jewel).
March 28, 2009
This box for storing clothes originates from what is regarded as the golden age of Joseon art. Since the dragon motif was reserved for the king or princes, the box was most likely used for storing official robes or other ceremonial regalia. Two intertwined dragons fly through the clouds on the lid: they are about to catch a flaming cintamani—a Buddhist wish-granting jewel. The dragons are inlaid in mother-of-pearl, the jewel in tortoiseshell, and the surrounding clouds in mother-of-pearl and copper wire. Alternating tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl circles decorate the rim of the lid.
Lacquer ware inlaid with mother-of-pearl originated in the Unified Silla (668–935) and Goryeo (918–1392) periods. That of the Goryeo shows dense designs formed by tiny bits of nacre blanketing the decorative field. In the subsequent Joseon period, larger pieces of nacre were used in conjunction with more pictorial space. The larger pieces of nacre were intentionally cracked to enhance the play of light across the shell surface, as seen here in the heads of the dragons and the clouds. The decorative use of twisted wires, seen here in the contours of the dragons and the clouds, is unique to Korean lacquer work.
(Label for UMMA Korean Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)
This small print depicts an ornamental pattern composed of curled acanthus leaves and spiralling vines terminating in flowers or buds. The plant ornament forms a symmetrical pattern around a central motif inscribed with the initials "HSB," which are conjoined. This motif is framed by two horn-shaped containers that end in monsters' heads.
This small print features an ornamental pattern composed of scrolling vines, flowers, acanthus leaves, and a pair of horn-shaped vessels that end in monsters' heads. The central decorative motif contains the artist's initials "HSB" joined together. Hans Sebald Beham produced many such prints with decorative patterns that were to serve as designs for metalwork, playing cards, wall paper, and other objects.
4 cm x 28.2 cm x 28.5 cm (1 9/16 in. x 11 1/8 in. x 11 1/4 in.)
Square shaped ceramic plate with iron black/brown glaze. Areas of raised black glaze with speckled texture sharply contrast lighter brown sections. Together they forn the shapes of circles, cracks, and lines.
A square dish, perhaps used for sweets at a tea ceremony
In 1924, Hamada Shôji moved to the town of Mashiko, a folk pottery center about two hours from central Tokyo. After studying in Kyoto and England, he was intent on creating ceramics in this renowned rural kiln where over a period of hundreds of years, pots and other wares had been produced for everyday use. At first the young, educated potter was not welcomed by the community, but gradually he became part of it, and Mashiko’s rough clay, dark brown glaze made from local stones, and simple drawing style became essential elements of his work.
The Mingei movement expanded both nationally and internationally during the postwar period as the reputations of its major artists grew. Hamada and fellow-potter Kawai, the textile artist Serizawa Keisuke (1895–1984), and the printmaker Munakata Shikô (1903–1975) exhibited their work widely and won prizes at international art competitions. As a result, traditional folk pottery by anonymous potters began to be valued and collected. The movement also inspired a younger generation of studio potters, including Tamura Kôichi and Ôta Kumao, who created strikingly modern works using the traditional forms of folk pottery as a point of departure.