Edoardo Chiossone Museum of Oriental Art verified

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closed Food for the Ancestors, Flowers for the Gods.

The show

Thanks to their wide variety, the Chiossone collections allow you to study both the history of Japanese art and China-Japan cultural and artistic relations.

In this regard, the collection of bronze and metal artifacts is particularly important: the archaistic Chinese pieces dating from the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) up to the end of the 19th century, imported into Japan starting from the Muromachi period (1393-1572), they document both the centuries-old Chinese interest in antiquities and the Japanese taste, cultivated by the military aristocracy and tea masters, of collecting Chinese bronze vases to compose flowers (hanaike 花生). As for the Japanese bronze section of the Chiossone Museum, it includes outstanding works, datable from Protohistory (Yayoi and Kofun periods, 3rd century BC - VII AD) up to the late Meiji period (1868-1912).

Most of the works that will be exhibited in the Genoa exhibition belong to the Chiossone Museum, with the significant participation of important loans from the National Museum of Oriental Art in Rome , the Chinese and Ethnographic Art Museum of Parma and from private collections.

From the second millennium to. Until the end of the Han dynasty in the third century AD, the bronze vessels of archaic China were used in the ritual offerings of meats, cereals and fermented drinks to the Ancestors. Their rediscovery in historical times, at the time of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), involved not only the attempt to reconstruct the contents and meanings of ancient rites, but also the need to document and study the bronze ritual pottery of the Antiquity both through illustrated classifications and cataloging, and through the bronze and ceramic reproduction of the archaic specimens. This relevant phenomenon of studying, copying and reproducing antiquities, known in the West as 'archaism' or 'archaistic production', lasted uninterruptedly until the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). However, at the end of the first millennium of the Common Era the religious and spiritual universes of China had irreversibly changed from the archaic ones: not only the Ancestors, but also the Immortals of Taoism, the Awakened and Bodhisattvas of Buddhism, settled on the altars and in temples, they required worship and appropriate offerings, different from the ancient ones: that is, flowers, incense and light from lamps or candles. Thus, in the vessels in ancient times filled with cereal offerings incense was burned, in the vessels and chalices once used to contain and drink wine to the ancestors were composed flowers.

The Chinese bronzes in the archaistic style imported into the Japanese archipelago from the seventh to the nineteenth century were mainly intended for the imperial court, for the great Buddhist monasteries and, from the end of the thirteenth century onwards, also for the military aristocracy. In Japan these imported works belonged to the special category of karamono kodō 唐 物 古銅, 'Chinese bronze objects' avidly sought, collected and preserved by the political elite during the Muromachi (1393-1572), Momoyama (1573-1600) periods. and Edo (1600-1868). Well, these bronzes, which together with other karamono such as calligraphy, paintings, carved lacquers and celadon ceramics represent the expression of the cultural prestige of Japan linked to the possession of Chinese masterpieces, are an essential part of the history of Japanese art and taste, on which exerted profound influences over the centuries.

The Chinese flower pots (karamono hanaike 唐 物 花生) of the XIII-XVIII centuries belonging to the Chiossone Museum are works of high artistic, cultural, symbolic and technical value. The oldest to be imported into Japan date back to the 14th-15th centuries: they were used in the decoration of Kazari zashiki 座 敷 飾 - that is to say, in the ornamental displays prepared in the representation and reception rooms of the feudal residences. The Chinese bronzes of the following eras, datable to the 15th-19th centuries, i.e. from the mid Ming period to the late and final Qing period, found their place both in the context of the tea ceremony (chanoyu 茶 の 湯) and in the environments of the bunjin 文人, the synophilic writers who practiced the 'way of infused tea' (senchadō 前 茶道). Several of the flower vases imported from China belonging to the Chiossone Museum are strictly comparable to specimens historically classified in Japan as 'famous works' (meibutsu 名 物) or 'of great renown' (ōmeibutsu 大名 物), which in the past belonged to aristocratic and large collections. tea masters and transmitted to the heritages of public and private Japanese museums up to the contemporary era.

Finally, it is important to consider that in the Chiossone collections various Japanese rikkahei 立 花瓶 - that is, large bronze vases for formal floral compositions, produced from the end of the 16th to the early 19th centuries by specialized bronze workers known as "flower vase masters" (ohanaire-shi 御 花 入 師) - attest both the artistic and cultural exemplarity attributed to the ancient tradition of Chinese antiquity collecting, and the selective creation, by the great Japanese bronze painters, of an archaistic style of Chinese inspiration fully suited to local taste.

Timetable and tickets


Piazzale Mazzini, 4N
16122 Genoa


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