On April 25, The Glass that Gallé Adored—Glass from the Qing Imperial Collection opened at the Suntory Museum of Art in Roppongi.
The show is a fascinating exhibition of Qing imperial glass collections, intertwined with pieces from the French artist Emile Gallé’s work, and includes a collection from the Victoria and Albert Museum in Great Britain.
Origins of glass production in China date back very far. The glass artifacts produced then were implements, such as bi (discs with a hole in the center), seals and sword handles associated with rituals, or were often decorative ornaments, including glass beads and rings, which served as substitutes for precious stones.
However, it was during the Qing dynasty that glasswork production made dramatic advances. During this period, a glass workshop—The Imperial Glassworks—was established within the Forbidden City, commencing the production of imperial glassworks under the reign of many emperors to come in the dynasty. It was under the Qianlong Emperor’s reign that the dynasty’s glassmaking reached the height of its splendor.
Translucency is usually the appealing trait of glass items. However, the pieces shown at the exhibition are massive and profound, and the exquisite craftsmanship of the Qing glass carvings and their various use of colors make the show a lustrous spectacle.
A leading artist in France’s Art Nouveau period, Emile Gallé (1846-1904), was also captivated by the exceptional beauty of Qing glass and incorporated the influence into his own art.
Along with the Suntory Museum of Art’s vast collection of Gallé’s works, audiences can view European and Chinese glass artifacts that mutually influenced each other, as well as the timeline of their production. Furthermore, the last section in the show, a collection of glass “snuff bottles” which are containers used to store fine-ground tobacco called snuff, is assembled with various lightings and mirrors, which wonderfully display the shapes, colors, and quality of the pieces.
Like paintings and pottery, glasswork cannot be fully enjoyed through photographs. Their exquisite textures and color palettes can only be explored by encountering the actual pieces in person.
Unfortunately, many Chinese arts and crafts have scattered and disappeared over time. For those of you from China or neighboring countries, the exhibition will, no doubt, be a worthy experience of coming face to face with some of the Qing dynasty’s marvelous artifacts.
Suntory Museum of Art
Tokyo Midtown Galleria 3F
9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8643, Japan
When – April 25 ~ July 1, 2018
Hours – 10:00～18:00（Fridays & Saturdays 10:00～20:00）
Closed: Tuesdays (except June 26)
Website for exhibition:
Website for display
Yukihiro Watanabe, JAPAN Forward advisor, is the organizer of Gillie Club, a members-only club that offers a platform for cultural and social exchange and interactions among people with similar interests.