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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 11:43 am

‘Power and Glory’ from China

St. Louis museum to display art from the Ming dynasty

Two dragons presenting a heart-shaped amber, buried 1647-1658; from the tomb of Lady Chen, wife of Tong Bonian, outside the Zhonghua Gate, Nanjing, Nanjing Municipal Museum.
Backgammon board with lions; Xuande period (1426-1435); copper alloy with gold gilding and polychrome enamel inlays from the Palace Museum, Beijing.
Portrait of Prince Zhu Youyuan in Ceremonial Uniform, 1521-1524; Jiajing period (1522-1566); hanging scroll, colors on silk; from Palace Museum, Beijing.

Beginning Feb. 22, people from across the nation will head to St. Louis for a chance to see a backgammon board. The gilded board, from Beijing’s Palace Museum, dates back to 1426 and will be displayed at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Power and Glory: Court Arts from China’s Ming Dynasty is the first exhibition to focus on art from this time period. The collection of more than 125 works will be displayed in St. Louis until May 17, 2009.

During the 276 years of Ming rule, China enjoyed new levels of artistic innovation and accomplishment. Much like Europe during the Renaissance, the Ming dynasty saw artists achieve a new level of brilliance in an era known for its opulence and wealth.

Curators He Li and Michael Knight have selected exceptional and exquisite objects from three leading Chinese museums. With the collection, they strive to display both the range and development of Ming art. “Renowned for its refined aesthetic, Ming court art is both visually beautiful and profoundly significant,” explains Phillip Hu, associate curator of Asian art. “For nearly three centuries, the strong imperial patronage of Ming emperors produced new heights in Chinese art.”

Workshops and kilns during Ming rule were required to follow strict standards under imperial supervision. These high standards resulted in production of porcelains, lacquerware and meltalwork esteemed worldwide for their quality.

Visitors will be able to see and appreciate these artifacts, which are accompanied by paintings and work in gold, jade, textiles, wood and bamboo. Some items include Portrait of Prince Zhu Youyuan (colors on silk), Two Dragons Presenting a Heart Shaped Amber (from the tomb of Lady Chen), and Scooping the Moon From a Golden Basin (hanging scroll). Emperors and other high-ranking officials in the Ming dynasty created some of the collection’s most significant paintings.

Power and Glory provides a rare opportunity for these delicate items to be appreciated outside of China. In fact, many of the relics have never before left their native land. Now you can see them just 100 miles south of Springfield.

Admission to the St. Louis Art Museum ranges from $6-$10, and tickets are available at 314-534-1111 or at metrotix.com. The museum is located at 1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Zach Baliva is a filmmaker currently living in Springfield. You can keep up to date with his current project at http://mynameisjerry.com.

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