Chinese Porcelains at The National Gallery in Washington DC, A National Treasure.Have you ever been surprised and amazed at a Museum? I mean REALLY Surprised?
|Langyao and Peach Bloom Porcelain at the |
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
After finishing up, as I was heading for the door I spotted a sign indicating the lower level also had on display some Chinese objects. So I took a few minutes and headed down to see what was there. As I moved along I wondered briefly what might be there? Perhaps a few old Tang horses left by a benefactor, some Chinese Export dinner wares once belonging to the Governor of NY or Virginia perhaps...But! Its always good to look...you never know if it might be something worthwhile!
A Memorable and A Happy Shock To The System, Kangxi MeccaHave you ever wandered into a museum gallery that you had no expectation of seeing that day, that you were completely un-prepared for and in fact never knew even existed previously and was one the best exhibits you've ever seen?
That day in DC was one of those days for yours truly, a Chinese porcelain addict.... I found Mecca for Kangxi porcelain lovers. All of it in a sleepy, very well organized gallery tucked quietly into the bowels of National Gallery of Art. A series of spaces filled with the "Best of Breed".
Case after case with carefully displayed masterpieces primarily from the 17th to 18th C. Chinese kilns. Kangxi Peach Bloom vases and pots, Langyao vases (aka Oxblood) with glazes collectors and fans only dream of. Then claire de lune pieces one after another, many marked and all stunning. DO you love famille noire?..It was feast for the eyes..and then onto famille verte figures, each one more perfect than the last.
While the Freer-Sackler Gallery in DC is of course well known and superbly broad in it's content, this collection is really something very special. The Kangxi 18th C. Langyao and Peach Bloom porcelains at the National Gallery collection are a spectacular experience.
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Lucky Me..in DCUpon entering the space I quickly realized I was the only person there...all alone, being greeted by porcelains of superb quality, one after another of such uniqueness and character that they seemed to almost be alive. Some even had names...attached to them, such as "The Fire Cloud" and "The Flame".
Each example broadcasting it's greatness under the lights, each of superb form and colors, each just being there with an audience or not, every moment of every day through the night and into the next. Each in sublime repose waiting for appreciative eyes to fall upon them.
While there...I was pretty much alone the whole time. No guards, no docents, no couples, no students...nobody but me.. Suddenly my day had all the time in the world...nothing else mattered. I had discovered a Treasure. If I had a flight to catch, I would have tossed the ticket for another day. If I had been expected someplace, I would have made my apologies later...I knew instantly, I would be there a while.
Ok, I know my enthusiasm sounds a bit nuts, but for those of you who've never seen this collection please give me the benefit of the doubt. Its not the biggest, nor is it particularly wide ranging in the world of Chinese porcelains and ceramics..But what it is, is SUPERB...Sometimes small and stunning exhibits are more than whats needed to create a lifelong memory.
So for the next couple hours, I went from case to case. Looking and looking again, comparing, studying, standing back and just staring at each example. Changing angles, looking across the room to see how particular pieces look from 20 feet and then 30 feet away and then up as close as the cases would allow. By the end, I felt I knew most of them the way a collector gets to know his own pieces...we had all become friends.
Isn't that what museums should do for you? I think so...During the entire time no more than a hand-full of people came through and one very quiet older guard who smiled politely and kindly left me alone beyond a friendly "hello sir"... It was a very nice day.
To add to it all, upon leaving to my delight The NGA had available a great hardbound catalog on the collection in the gift store, fully illustrated and well written. Of course I bought it and strolled out into the late day light after happily plunking down the $75.00 purchase price. Over a decade later, its still a great book, just to have,,,and it's useful.!
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