Artful: Chinese Ancient Bronzes & Music (Part 3)

This is the last part, Part 3, of the Chinese Ancient Bronzes exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute.

Besides the bronze objects themselves, the exhibit included rubbings and paintings of these objects, including of emperors surrounded by and admiring their collections of bronzes, and members of the intellectual elite studying them.

Depiction of Ruan Yuan appreciating bronzes with his son Ruan Changsheng and his friend Zhu Weibi.  Frontispiece from Jigutu (Illustration of Assembled Antiquities), 1802. Handscroll, ink and color on paper.



This painting depicts Wu Dacheng, surrounded by his collection of bronze vessels. Men like this were interested in interpreting the vessels’ inscriptions and studying them as historical documents.  Hu Xiang & Lu Hui, 1892, Frontispiece for Handscroll Collected Antiquities at Kezhai (Kezhai Jigutu) ;  ink and color on paper.

The following scroll is about 50 feet long and shows 45 bronze vessels in composite rubbbings. This and other scrolls like it were made by a group of skilled craftsmen for the celebrated collector Wu Dacheng (see his portrait above).


Collected Antiquities at Kezhai (Kezhai Jigutu), Before 1892; Handscroll, ink and color on paper, rubbings. 


An example of a contemporary artist’s rendition of an ancient bronze vessel is this painting of a wine vessel from the late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th centuries BCE); the original bronze vessel is located at the Shanghai Museum of Ancient Art.

Tai Xiangzhou (b. 1968), Painting of the Bucket of Minister Xi (Xiao Chen Xi You), 2017; ink on paper

Chinese artist Hong Hou (b. 1960) mixes painting and photography in a fusion of old and new.


Du Chin (Chinese, c. 1465-1487), Enjoying Antiquities (Wangutu), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), ink and color on silk.


Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1960), Appreciating Antiquities (Wangutu) from Elegant Gathering (Yaji), 2007, ink, color and digital images on paper. In this work, Hong Hao takes up the traditional theme of a gathering of intellectuals (yaji) and reinterprets it through digital photography, offering a perspective on the 21st century world.

Music was used in ancient rituals and was meant to imitate the sounds of nature.  Bells in varying sizes were often accompanied by an orchestra of traditional Chinese musical instruments.  The two videos from following these pictures were downloaded from YouTube. The first is music of Chinese bells alone, while the second has information and various examples of ancient Chinese music using bronze bells.


Bo Bell of Great Splendor (Dasheng Bozhong), Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), bronze.




At the end of the exhibit was an activity: paper and pencils were provided to use to create our own “rubbings” of motifs commonly used in Chinese antiquities.









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