“The study of women in history is exciting, timely and necessary,” says Jan Stuart, co-curator at the Freer|Sackler. “By focusing on the material and spiritual world of these women, we begin to fill in details absent from previous accounts of women in Chinese history. To the extent that the empresses’ experience of the expectations and constraints finds echo in our own world, we hope this exhibition will prompt broader reflection on the position of women in society and fosters a sense of commonality and connection across time and cultures.”
Surrounded by a dazzling array of imperial treasures, visitors will also discover engaging in-gallery interactive experiences, such as creating an empress’s robe. Other experiences include immersive videos and opera performance, as well as English and Chinese language label text and guided tours. In November 2018, halfway through the run of the six-month exhibition at PEM, an additional 30 artworks from the Palace Museum will be installed in the galleries, including magnificent paintings and imperial robes.
“This exciting exhibition fulfills our institutions’ shared commitment to expanding the appreciation of China’s rich culture, in this instance by recovering the preeminence of the Qing empresses through these stunning and rare objects,” notes Dan L. Monroe, the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO of Peabody Essex Museum, and Julian Raby, Director Emeritus, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
Thursday, August 16, 2018 | 6:00 pm Cocktail Reception | 6:30 pm Remarks & Exhibition Tour
Please join us for a cocktail reception and exhibition preview of Empresses of China’s Forbidden City featuring a behind-the-scenes tour with exhibition co-curators Daisy Yiyou Wang and Jan Stuart. RSVP to Paige Besse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
High-resolution publicity images are available for download from the following link: goo.gl/q3F5BZ
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A 264-page accompanying catalogue, Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644-1912, published by the Peabody Essex Museum and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and distributed by Yale University Press, will be available August/September 2018. Offering compelling insights into the material culture, activities and living spaces of Qing empresses, this fully illustrated book features over 100 splendid works of art from the Palace Museum, Beijing—including large-scale portraits, court robes, spectacular jewelry and richly decorated Buddhist sutras—that bring the splendor of the Qing court to life. A series of insightful essays and object entries examine the fascinating ways that key imperial women engaged with art, religion and politics. This unprecedented exploration of the Qing court from the perspective of its royal women is an important contribution to our understanding of Chinese art and history. The catalogue has been edited by Daisy Yiyou Wang, the Robert N. Shapiro Curator of Chinese and East Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum and Jan Stuart, the Melvin R. Seiden Curator of Chinese Art at the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler.
Drinking Tea from Yinzhen’s Twelve Ladies. Court painters, Beijing, possibly including Zhang Zhen (active late 17th–early 18th century) or his son Zhang Weibang (about 1725–about 1775), Kangxi period, 1709–23, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Palace Museum, Gu6458-7/12. © The Palace Museum
Ritual space in the Main Hall of the Palace of Longevity and Health (detail). Courtesy of the Palace Museum, Beijing. © The Palace Museum
Hairpin with figure and vase. 18th or 19th century, pearls, sapphire, coral, turquoise, kingfisher feather, and silver with gilding, Palace Museum, Gu10130. © The Palace Museum
Empress Dowager Chongqing at the Age of Seventy (detail). Probably Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining; Italy, 1688–1766) and other court painters, Beijing, Qianlong period, about 1761, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Palace Museum, Gu6452. © The Palace Museum
Empress Xiaoxian (detail). Ignatius Sichelbarth (Ai Qimeng; Bohemia, 1708–1780), Yi Lantai (active about 1748–86), and possibly Wang Ruxue (active 18th century), Qianlong period, 1777 with repainting possibly in 19th century, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Peabody Essex Museum, gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Sturgis Hinds,1956, E33619.
Empress Dowager Cixi (detail). Photographed by Yu Xunling (1874–1943), Guangxu period, 1903–05, print from glass- plate negative, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, FSA A.13 SC-GR-262, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Purchase.
Stupa containing Empress Dowager Chongqing’s hair and Amitayus Buddha. Imperial Workshop, Beijing, Qianlong period, 1777, gold and silver alloy with coral, turquoise, lapis lazuli, and other semiprecious stones, and glass; pedestal: zitan wood, Palace Museum, Gu11866. © The Palace Museum
Empress Dowager Cixi with foreign envoys’ wives in the Hall of Happiness and Longevity (Leshou tang) in the Garden of Nurturing Harmony (Yihe yuan). Photographed by Yu Xunling (1874–1943), Guangxu period, 1903–05, print from glass-plate negative, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, FSA A.13 SC-GR-249. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, purchase.
Freer|Sackler, Washington D.C.: March 30 - June 23, 2019
Empresses of China’s Forbidden City is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum; the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler, Washington, D.C. and the Palace Museum, Beijing.
Exhibition support provided by:
Liu Dan; Henry Luce Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; Bei Shan Tang Foundation; Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and the Lynch Foundation; Shirley Z. Johnson and Charles Rumph; The Richard C. von Hess Foundation; AMG Foundation; The Coby Foundation; Eaton Vance; American Friends of the Shanghai Museum; Blakemore Foundation; Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo; Quan Zhou and Dr. Xiaohua Zhang; Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; Skinner, Inc.; Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation; Sandra Urie and Frank Herron; and Robert N. Shapiro. We also recognize the generosity of Mr. & Mrs. James B. Hawkes for support of seminar programming around the exhibition, and the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.
The Boston Globe
PEM is proud to be a partner of the MassFashion Collaborative.
ABOUT THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM
Founded in 1799, PEM is the oldest continuously operating museum in the nation. Over the past twenty five years, PEM has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in America and now ranks among the top ten percent based on size, endowment, and operating budget. PEM creates transformative experiences of art, culture, and creative expression and is dedicated to creating new strategies for engagement, impact, and innovation. The museum’s exhibitions, presented at home and at first-tier art museums worldwide, provide surprising, compelling, and thought-provoking experiences. The museum's collections are among the finest of their kind, boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, Maritime, Native American, Oceanic, American, American Decorative, Fashion, Photography, and Asian Export Art. Its library collection is one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts, and PEM’s architecture collection of 22 noted historic structures includes Yin Yu Tang, the only complete antique Chinese house located outside China. PEM's education and public programs serve diverse audiences of all ages and the museum’s campus offers a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities, and performance spaces. PEM’s visitor satisfaction ratings are consistently highly ranked and it is the only art museum in the world to employ a full-time neuroscientist to help design more exciting and impactful experiences based on brain research. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866‐745‐1876 or visit pem.org
ABOUT THE FREER|SACKLER
The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museums of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The Freer|Sackler also contains important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler.
The Freer|Sackler is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, which is dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge.
ABOUT THE PALACE MUSEUM
Established in 1925, the Palace Museum is one of the world’s most prestigious museums, welcoming 16 million visitors annually. As a national museum, it is designated as one of China’s foremost cultural heritage sites. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is located in the magnificent imperial architectural complex of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties known as the Forbidden City. The museum holds more than 1.8 million paintings, works of calligraphy, ceramics, jades, textiles and other objects from the imperial collection, representing 5,000 years of Chinese civilization in general and late imperial art and culture in particular. In recent years the Palace Museum has dramatically expanded its exhibition programs to include long-term collection installations and temporary exhibitions that feature both its collection and loans. It has played a significant role in promoting Chinese art and culture by organizing exhibitions in collaboration with institutions from more than 20 countries around the world. The Palace Museum is a leader in China in the fields of historic preservation, conservation, collection digitization, education, scholarly research and publication. As of April 2018, the museum’s social media platform has more than 9.6 million followers.
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