Recent Acquisitions, Part II: Building the Collection

, Arthur M. Sackler Museum
  • The Blind Singer

    The Blind Singer

  • The Procession of St. Rosalia in Palermo

    The Procession of St. Rosalia in Palermo

  • Landscript

    Landscript

    An album leaf, this painting depicts a thatched-roof cottage set in a lush landscape. The cottage sits at the very center of the composition, nestled between a small lake in the foreground and a series of rolling hills in the background and flanked on either side by groves of trees. Grasses and short bamboo plants surround the lake, in which various insects swim. A small, tile-roofed building appears to the (viewer's) left of the cottage, and vegetables grow in a garden to the left of the tile-roofed building. A clump of bamboo grows behind the thatched-roofed cottage. The trees to the right of the cottage are identified as cypresses and pines; those at the left of the composition are unidentified. Written in his own idiosyncratic Roman letters, the artist's signature reading Xu Bing appears in the lower right corner of the composition. The artist impressed his circular, red, relief seal immediately above his signature; the seal, also in his own idiosyncratic Roman letters, reads "Xu Bing". Xu Bing has coined the English word "Landscript" to describe his landscapes of this type; the proper Chinese translation is 文字寫生 ("wenzi xiesheng"), though it sometimes also is translated as 讀風景 ("dufengjing"). Landscapes of this type use Chinese characters as pictorial elements, the characters varying from standard script ("kaishu") and draft script ("caoshu") to simplified forms as well as such archaic forms as bronze and oracle-bone scripts. Thus, the doorways of both thatched-roof cottage and tile-roofed building are represented with the character meaning "door" ("men"), just as the windows in the thatched-roof cottage are represented with the character for window ("chuang"). The various characters incorporated into the composition can be identified as follows: Doors: "men" 門 (door, doorway, gate); Windows: "chuang" 窗 (window, portal); Thatched roof: "cao" 草 (grass); Tile roof: "wa" 瓦 (rooftile); Beans: "douzi " 豆子 (bean)--the plants in the lower right corner, in front of the lake; Bamboo: "zhu" 竹 (bamboo)--the plants in the lower left corner and behind the thatched-roof cottage; Insects: "chong" 虫 (insects, bugs, worms)--the tadpole-like animals in the lake; Soil: "tu" 土 (earth, soil)--the characters to the right of the lake and at the top center of the composition; Vegetables: "cai" 菜 (vegetables)--the plants in the garden to the left of the tile-roofed building; Trees: "mu" 木 (trees, wood)--the trees at the left of the composition, to the left of the vegetable garden; Grove: "lin" 林 (copse, grove, woods, forest)--the trees at the left of the composition, to the left of the vegetable garden; Leaves: "yezi" 葉子 (leaves)--the trees in the upper left corner of the composition, above the "mu" and "lin" characters; because the trees are far away, one sees only the trees' crowns (i.e. leaves), rather than the trunks and branches; Cypress: "bo" or "bai" 柏 (cypress tree)--the trees to the right of the thatched cottage; Pine: "song" 松 (pine tree)--the trees at the right edge of the composition. Xu Bing's artistic practice is an exploration of language. In works ranging from monumental installations to handcrafted books, he plays with the written word, usually in the form of the Chinese character. Working in a wide range of media, Xu Bing creates installations that question the idea of communicating meaning through language, demonstrating how both meanings and written words can be easily manipulated. In fact, in awarding his 1999 "genius grant," the MacArthur Foundation cited his "originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society, particularly in printmaking and calligraphy." In playing with Chinese characters, Xu Bing typically explores the relationship between word and image--that is, the close relationship between painting and Chinese characters of a pictorial or semi-pictorial type, as he does in this and other paintings in the "Landscript" series.

  • Customs and Fashions of the Turks

    Customs and Fashions of the Turks

  • Joseph-Henri de Bombelles, Comte de La Motte-Saint-Lié, in the Tuileries Gardens

    Joseph-Henri de Bombelles, Comte de La Motte-Saint-Lié, in the Tuileries Gardens

  • Augusta Savage

    Augusta Savage

  • A Panoramic Landscape

    A Panoramic Landscape

  • Untitled

    Untitled

  • Pavilion by a Waterfall and Stream

    Pavilion by a Waterfall and Stream

    Painted in ink and light colors on paper, this rectangular album leaf depicts an autumnal landscape with a scholar seated in a riverside pavilion. Set on stilts that elevate it above the waters, the thatched pavilion is situated between the river and a mountain down whose sides cascades a waterfall, its waters flowing under the pavilion and into the river. The scholar gazes toward the composition’s left edge, which is dominated by the river and the distant mountains, whose details are completely obscured by the intervening mists, which impart a light blue hue. The thatched pavilion appears at the bottom of the painting, in the center foreground. A series of tree-capped hillocks arcs from the composition’s lower right corner to the composition’s center, framing the multi-room pavilion. A tall peak with craggy, vertical sides and plateaus at its top dominates the right half of the composition. The waterfall tumbles down the front of the dominant peak, falling into an unseen stream that flows to the foreground, under the pavilion, and into the lake. The artist’s short, vertically oriented, four-character inscription reading "Bi Ryu Kye Kak" (Chinese, "Fei Liu Xi Ge") appears in the upper left corner of the painting; the inscription can be loosely translated as “Pavilion by a Waterfall and Stream.” The artist’s rectangular, red, relief seal reading "So Ch’i" (Chinese, "Xiao Chi") appears immediately to the (viewer’s) left of the inscription’s lower two characters. The artist’s inscription/title, particularly the characters "Bi Ryu" (Chinese "Fei Liu"), which Ho Ryon used to mean “waterfall,” suggests that the scene might well have been inspired by the Chinese poem “Gazing at the Waterfall on Mt. Lu” (Chinese "Wang Lu Shan Pu Bu"), which was composed by the Tang-dynasty poet Li Bai (701-762): Gazing at the Waterfall on Mt. Lu (Censer Mountain) By Li Bai The mists enveloping Censer Mountain (Mt. Lu) shimmer violet in the sunshine. The distant waterfall recalls a river hanging from the sky, Its flying waters cascading straight down from three thousand feet up. Is it the Milky Way tumbling from the highest heavens, star by star? Despite its likely literary reference to a poem of Li Bai, the painting’s style derives from that of the Qing-dynasty Orthodox-school masters Wang Hui (1632-1717) and Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715). The portrayal of the scholar and of the thatched pavilion recalls the works of the Ming literati painter Shen Zhou (1427-1509).

  • Baths of Trajan, Rome

    Baths of Trajan, Rome

  • Demonstration

    Demonstration

  • Ewer with Short, Flaring Neck, Short Spout, and Handle in the Form of a Leaping Lion

    Ewer with Short, Flaring Neck, Short Spout, and Handle in the Form of a Leaping Lion

    This ewer has an ovoid body that rests on a solid, slightly flaring foot. The steep walls rise rapidly to the shoulder, where they curve inward and then angle upward to complete the container portion. A bowed neck stands atop the shoulder, its lip turned delicately outward. A short spout in the form of an open-mouthed creature juts upward from the top of the shoulder; opposing the spout is a handle in the form of a slender, leaping lion with hind paws resting on the vessel shoulder and forepaws reaching over and grasping onto the vessel lip. The lion's head and shoulders rise above the top of the vessel and his jaws clamp down onto the edge of the lip, as if it were biting its prey. A thin, even coat of ivory-hued glaze covers the ewer's interior and exterior, stopping no more than a centimeter above the foot, so that the flat base and very lowest portion of the vessel remain unglazed. The exposed body clay is pure white.

  • "No Trespassing" Plaque

  • Mantel Clock with the Figure of Clotho

    Mantel Clock with the Figure of Clotho

    Mantel clock crowned by a figure of Clotho seated on a fountain with a dog by her side.

  • Taira no Tadamori Captures the Priest of Midō Temple (Taira no Tadamori Midō hōshi o  toraeru zu)

    Taira no Tadamori Captures the Priest of Midō Temple (Taira no Tadamori Midō hōshi o toraeru zu)

    This woodblock printed triptych by Kobayashi Kiyochika illustrates a famous rainy-night encounter between the warrior Taira no Tadamori (1096-1153) and an old priest on the grounds of Midō Temple in Kyoto. The tripartite scene may be "read" from right to left. The first print (at the far right) depicts a scene of sturdy tree trunks in a mist-enshrouded grove juxtaposed with a row of Buddhist stone lanterns that recede into the distance; the faint light emitted by the lanterns reflects brightly against dark, watery puddles on the ground. The center panel of the triptych focuses on a figure of an old man, hunched over and holding a small torch and oil pot as he makes his way through the cluster of trees. The man's pale, bony legs, ragged clothes, wrinkled face, and eccentric headdress made of straw give him a startling, almost ghoulish appearance. The third print (at the far left) portrays a heroic warrior in informal garb, standing at attention between two lanterns, his gaze fixed squarely on the strange figure approaching him, his hands poised as if ready to snatch his swords from their scabbards at any moment. Although each of the three individual prints bears a composition that can easily stand alone, when placed together they create a panoramic scene that dramatically conveys a narrative based on an episode in the life of Taira no Tadamori. A prominent member of the Taira clan of samurai, Tadamori served the retired Heian-period Emperor Shirakawa (1053-1129; r. 1073-1087). According to legend, one rainy night the emperor set out to visit his favorite concubine in the Gion district of Kyoto and asked Tadamori to accompany him. On the way there, they walked through a grove near Midō Temple when they came across a strange, ghostlike figure emanating a flickering light. Startled, the emperor commanded Tadamori to subdue the ghostly demon. Tadamori courageously resolved to capture the thing alive, but fortunately realized before it was too late that the "ghost" was in fact a temple priest wearing a protective rain hat made of straw and carrying a small torch and oil to replenish the lanterns on the temple grounds. For his bravery, Tadamori was said to have been rewarded with the emperor's own concubine.

  • Krishna Fluting in the Forest

    Krishna Fluting in the Forest

    In the center of this painting, Krishna, the eighth avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who is worshipped as a deity in his own right, stands on the bank of a river filled with water lilies. Fluting, he faces leftward toward the sun, surrounded by trees and flowers. The painting may represent verses in the Bhagavat Purana, when Krishna summons the gopis (milkmaids). Rajput style, Jaipur school.

  • Lakshmana Removes a Thorn from Rama's Foot, from a Ramayana series

    Lakshmana Removes a Thorn from Rama's Foot, from a Ramayana series

    The painting depicts Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu, who is worshipped as a god in his own right, supported by two of his warrior companions, while a thorn removed from his foot by his brother, Lakshmana. On the far right is the bear-king, Jambavan, who gestures in conversation with one hand while holding a quiver in the crook of his arm. On the far left is the monkey-god Hanuman, who carries his iconic mace in one hand, while resting the other on top of a black shield. The painting represents a scene from the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana (Story of Rama). Pahari style, Basohli school.

  • Head of Buddha, probably the Buddha Sakyamuni

    Head of Buddha, probably the Buddha Sakyamuni

    Carved in gray limestone in Thailand in the seventh or early eighth century, this stone sculpture depicts the head of a Buddha, probably the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha; the face displays a serene, benevolent countenance. No images of the Buddha were created during his lifetime (traditionally, 563-483 BCE), so all representations, whether in painting or sculpture, are fanciful, presenting the imagined appearance of the Buddha; thus, the facial characters vary from culture to culture and from period to period. Broken from a stone statue of the Buddha—presumably a standing image of the Buddha—this sculpture includes the figure’s head and neck. The sculpture is presented frontally and, in form, is basically an elongated, vertically oriented rectangle. The facial features are relatively large, the down-cast eyes fully-modeled, lightly outlined, and set in shallow sockets below the narrow forehead and above the fleshy cheeks; appearing below the prominent nose, the thick, decidedly outlined lips turn up at the ends, imparting a slight smile to the mouth. Typical of sculptures influenced by Indian, Gupta-period sculptures from Sarnath (and ultimately by earlier sculptures in Gandharan style), the eyebrows are created less through modeling than through the crisp intersection of forehead and eye-socket planes. Three relatively deep intaglio lines encircle the neck, creating the characteristically fleshy folds that are described in Buddhist texts. A mound-shaped ushnisha appears atop the head, the ushnisha being the cranial protuberance symbolizing the expanded wisdom that the Buddha gained at the time of his Enlightenment and thus serving as the single and most-important defining iconographic characteristic of a Buddha. Snail-shell curls of hair arc across the top of the forehead and cover the entire crown of the head, including the ushnisha. The ears, with their distended lobes, are proportionally long but cling tightly to the sides of the head, the lobes flaring out lightly at the bottoms. The front and sides of the sculpture are in excellent condition, given the age of the piece; those portions are intact and complete. In fact, those portions show only various small nicks and scratches, apart from a chip on the proper left cheek—slightly above and to the (viewer’s) right of the end of the mouth—and apart from a long crack that extends from the bottom of the chin, through the just-mentioned chip and the proper left eye socket, across the forehead, and to the hairline. A small chip and related crack appear in corresponding positions on the proper right side of the face. In contrast to the well-preserved front and sides of the sculpture, most of the lower half of the back of the head is missing. The loss extends from the middle of the back of the head down to the bottom of the neck; the loss begins immediately after the first column of snail-shell curls of hair behind the figure’s proper right ear; the loss begins after the third column of curls behind the proper left ear, with the fourth column partly intact, partly missing. Fortunately, the ears and distended lobes are completely intact and undamaged. The chips and long cracks on the front of the sculpture likely were inflicted long ago, once the sculpture was no longer under worship; perhaps the sculpture fell over and was damaged. It is unknown when the head became detached from the body or when the lower portion of the back of the head was broken away. Like virtually all Buddhist sculpture in stone and clay, this image originally would have been painted, though no traces of either pigment or gesso ground remain today.

  • Windräder II

    Windräder II

    Woodcut is made on poplar plywood

  • Small Pear-Shaped Vase with Ribbed Walls and Mock-Ring Handles

    Small Pear-Shaped Vase with Ribbed Walls and Mock-Ring Handles

    Molded with six bracket-lobes rising from the high ring foot to the wide mouth with flared rim also molded with six bracket-lobes around the lip, the straight neck applied with a pair of mock ring handles, covered with a lustrous pale green glaze continuing over the concave rounded base, the flat knife-pared foot rim left unglazed and the exposed stoneware burnt reddish brown at the margins.

  • Smugglers by Moonlight

    Smugglers by Moonlight

  • Untitled; verso: Untitled

    Untitled; verso: Untitled

  • Equestrian Portrait of Sultan Selim II (1524-74), son of Suleiman the Magnificent

    Equestrian Portrait of Sultan Selim II (1524-74), son of Suleiman the Magnificent

  • The Young Maharaja of Indore in Durbar

    The Young Maharaja of Indore in Durbar

    Occupying the center of this painting is a princely youth, identified by Naveen Patnaik as Tukaji Rao Holkar II (1836-86). The young maharaja is seated in durbar on a low, red upholstered throne with scrolling arms and backrest. Richly dressed in jewels and a green garment, he is flanked by ten courtiers, all dressed in white robes seated with legs akimbo. An attendant stands behind the maharaja lofting a floral standard or fan. All twelve figures are rendered in strict profile, but the maharaja is distinguished by a green nimbus ringed in gold. Each courtier has before him a plate holding drinks and "pan", while the maharaja holds a sprig of flowers. Rendered in imperfect single point perspective, the hall has pink walls that are pierced on one side by horseshoe arches that open to a cloud-filled sky. The floor is checkered in blue and white tiles and the black ceiling is painted in gold foliate patterns. Three grand chandeliers of European design hang from the ceiling and matching sconces are affixed to the walls and pillars. Large mirrors framed in green occupy the back and side walls.

  • Hesiod and the Muse

    Hesiod and the Muse

  • Emperor Bust Weight

    Emperor Bust Weight

  • Signet Ring

    Signet Ring

    The oval gem in this ring is carnelian. The intaglio carving depicts a draped woman, with a wreath or diadem over her head, standing right, holding out a globe in her left hand and a long staff or spear in her right. A simple incised line indicates the ground. The gold hoop varies in thickness. The oval bezel is raised, with slightly hunched shoulders.

  • Dish with Saz Spray Decoration

    Dish with Saz Spray Decoration

    The design of this dish incorporates two ingeniously painted floral sprays. Laden with blossoms, the longer stem rises up the middle, angles sharply downward, and then encircles the dish, intersecting the shorter stem. Such meticulously drawn intertwining branches with serrated leaves are characteristic of the ink drawings attributed to Shahquli, an émigré artist from Iran who headed the Ottoman court studio from 1540s to 1556. This studio supplied designs that were then executed in various media. Working with court designs, ceramic artists in Istanbul and Iznik experimented with an increasing range of colors. An expansion from a simpler palette of blue and turquoise, the four colors used on this dish were further enriched with red and emerald green after the 1550s. Its complex design and painting technique, especially the tonal rendering of the purple, distinguish this dish from all other Ottoman ceramics that use this palette, indicating an exceptional undertaking.

  • Summer

    Summer

  • Pedestal Bowl with Lightly Domed Cover, the Base with Openwork Decoration in One Register

    Pedestal Bowl with Lightly Domed Cover, the Base with Openwork Decoration in One Register

    This stately covered food cup rests on an elongated conical base that flares strongly at the bottom but then constricts to a virtually cylindrical form at the top. Of compressed hemispherical shape, the bowl springs directly from the pedestal base. The lightly domed cover rises from a short, vertical lip; a small, button-form handle rises from its top. Together, the bowl and cover form a compressed sphere--sufficiently compressed that, together, they are almost lens shaped. A single relief bowstring line divides the conical base into two horizontal registers. Elongated, vertically oriented apertures enliven the upper register of the base. The indented ring at the bottom of the pedestal base is a very sophisticated and aesthetically very satisfying finishing touch. A well-articulated, relief ridge accentuates the division between the cover's lip and dome and serves as a visual springboard for the arching dome. Two relatively closely spaced, incised bowstring lines on the upper portion divide the cover into three horizontal registers of unequal width; the middle register sports a ring of short, vertically oriented, dotted lines that radiate outward. The dotted lines likely were created with a roulette wheel. The covered pedestal bowl is unglazed; though made of light to medium gray stoneware, the exterior surfaces appear charcoal gray to black in most areas, due to carbon saturation during firing. The light gray hue of the stoneware is visible on the interior of bowl and cover, indicating that the vessel must have been fired with its cover in place, with the result that carbon from the smoke in the firing chamber did not reach those areas. Dirt and other burial adhesions appear in localized areas, particularly inside the pedestal base, in the apertures, and on the interior of both bowl and cover.

  • Sights Appear on My Mountains, Sighns [sic] of the Times

    Sights Appear on My Mountains, Sighns [sic] of the Times

  • Aureus of Trajan struck for Matidia, Rome

    Aureus of Trajan struck for Matidia, Rome

    Obv.: Bust of Matidia with stephane to r. Rev.: Pietas standing facing, her head to l., in long garment, placing her hands on the heads of two children standing at her side and holding on to her dress.

  • The Blind Singer
  • The Procession of St. Rosalia in Palermo
  • Landscript
  • Customs and Fashions of the Turks
  • Joseph-Henri de Bombelles, Comte de La Motte-Saint-Lié, in the Tuileries Gardens
  • Augusta Savage
  • A Panoramic Landscape
  • Untitled
  • Pavilion by a Waterfall and Stream
  • Baths of Trajan, Rome
  • Demonstration
  • Ewer with Short, Flaring Neck, Short Spout, and Handle in the Form of a Leaping Lion
  • Mantel Clock with the Figure of Clotho
  • Taira no Tadamori Captures the Priest of Midō Temple (Taira no Tadamori Midō hōshi o  toraeru zu)
  • Krishna Fluting in the Forest
  • Lakshmana Removes a Thorn from Rama's Foot, from a Ramayana series
  • Head of Buddha, probably the Buddha Sakyamuni
  • Windräder II
  • Small Pear-Shaped Vase with Ribbed Walls and Mock-Ring Handles
  • Smugglers by Moonlight
  • Untitled; verso: Untitled
  • Equestrian Portrait of Sultan Selim II (1524-74), son of Suleiman the Magnificent
  • The Young Maharaja of Indore in Durbar
  • Hesiod and the Muse
  • Emperor Bust Weight
  • Signet Ring
  • Dish with Saz Spray Decoration
  • Summer
  • Pedestal Bowl with Lightly Domed Cover, the Base with Openwork Decoration in One Register
  • Sights Appear on My Mountains, Sighns [sic] of the Times
  • Aureus of Trajan struck for Matidia, Rome
Arthur M. Sackler Museum

This exhibition of over 30 objects—from Roman antiquities to contemporary prints—celebrates the great breadth of works acquired by the Harvard Art Museums over the last four years. Building the Collection demonstrates the museums’ commitment to assembling holdings that advance the knowledge and appreciation of art through research, teaching, professional training, and public education. Featured objects include a limestone Head of Buddha from Thailand (7th or early 8th century); an Indian painting, Rama’s Brother Pulling a Thorn from His Foot (18th century); a drawing by Gustave Moreau, Hesiod and the Muse (1857); and contemporary artist Kara Walker’s “portrait” of Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage (2010). Coordinated by Michelle Lamunière, John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Assistant Curator of Photography, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums.

This exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund and the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer Jr. Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums.