Exhibition

Asian Export Art Gallery

On view September 28, 2019 to January 1, 2022

Beginning in the 16th century, many luxuries made in Asia such as translucent Chinese porcelain, fine Indian textiles, and glittering Japanese lacquer were superior to anything the rest of the world could produce. Merchants across the globe went to great lengths to acquire these spectacular commodities. Now known as Asian export art, these objects connected societies and created a complex global economy that continues to shape our world to this day.

PEM’s Asian Export Art collection, foremost in the world, explores cross-cultural exchange as a catalyst for creativity and celebrates the interplay of commerce and creative expression. The gallery features more than 200 works of art made in diverse media by artists in China, Japan, and South Asia. These transcultural objects demonstrate the beauty and ingenuity that can be created through blending artistic traditions, materials, and technologies. Porcelain, textiles, tea, ivory, and silver were the focus of intensive trade activity between Asia and the rest of the world. The new installation also addresses the uncomfortable truth that many of these works of art were originally purchased with profits derived from the illegal opium trade. During the 1800s, millions of Indian and Chinese lives were devastated by opium, a foreshadowing of today’s opioid crisis.

Share your impressions on social media using the hashtag #AsianExportArt

charger with symbol of Order of St. Augus- tine
Chinese artist, charger with symbol of Order of St. Augus- tine, 1590-1620. Porcelain. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Asian Export Art Visiting Committee. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Dennis Helmar.
jewel box
Japanese artist, jewel box, about 1640. Lacquer, wood, ivory, gold. Museum purchase with funds donated in honor of Anne G. Studzinski. © Peabody Essex Museum.
Portrait of Wu Bingjian
Lamqua, Portrait of Wu Bingjian, Also Known as Houqua II, painted about 1840. Oil on canvas. Gift of Rebecca B. Chase, Ann B. Mathias, and Charles E. Bradford. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Mark Sexton.
charger with the arms of Dobree
Chinese artist, charger with the arms of Dobree, ca. 1755. Porcelain. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Asian Export Art Visiting Committee. © Peabody Essex Museum.
Portable shrine
Portable shrine (Japan), about 1597. (painting attributed to Giovanni Niccolò and the Jesuit Seminary workshop). Oil on panel. Case possibly Kyūshū lacquer workshop. Wood covered in black lacquer, with gold hiramaki-e lacquer, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
chair
Indian artist, chair, ca. 1760. Ebony, cane, ivory, black lacquer. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum.
Tea caddy
Tea caddy, ca. 1740-1780. Rosewood, ivory, gold, silver, enamel, mica. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum.
Portrait of Harriet Low
George Chinnery, Portrait of Harriet Low, painted 1833. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase made possible by The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund and Joan Vaughan Ingraham. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Mark Sexton.
Detail of Chinese artist, Chinese wallpaper with a vew of Canton
Detail of Chinese artist, Chinese wallpaper with a vew of Canton [originally installed in the Ladies’ Salon, Strathallan Castle, Scotland], painted ca. 1790. Opaque watercolor on paper, tempera, mulberry paper. Purchased in honor of William R. Sargent. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
charger with the arms of Leake Okeover
Chinese artist, charger with the arms of Leake Okeover, 1740-1743. Porcelain. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum.
Vest (Japan)
Vest (Japan), 18th century. Gilding, gilt, paint, wool, leather, chintz. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum.