5 artefacts you can adopt at the Asian Civilisations Museum
1. Now smell this
Your Penhaligon's or Diptyque diffusers don't have anything on this 18th-century beauty. Not only is this incense burner an assembly of three different components, it's an embodiment of the early exchange of ideas and design favoured in Europe's Baroque and Rococo periods: The Chinese porcelain horse was made in the Kangxi reign in the 1600s Qing dynasty, the incense compartment a joining of two Japanese lacquer bowls from the 18th-century Edo period, while the gilded mounts that hold the structure up are made in France in the mid 18th-century.
2. Treasure trove
Every woman has that one box where she stores her little treasures and trinkets — be it jewellery, letters from former lovers or old ticket stubs. For the 16th and 17th century women of India, their prized possessions were likely found in this mother-of-pearl casket. The iridescent pink and blue hues cover its teak body, which is flanked with an embellished central plaque of floral motifs. The silver lock with leaves and scrolls reveal its insides. Another cultural exchange is spotted in history's hotline bling — this time, it's the finely engraved silver appliques on the side, borrowed from a European aesthetic.
3. Dance, dance, dance
This porcelain princess doesn't just stand still and look pretty — it's also a water pitcher, with her raised arm a sprout and the other, a handle. A native of Jingdezhen in China's 1500s, this ewer depicts the obsession courts around the world had with Chinese porcelain. This particular enamel-painted character is almost identical to the one owned by the Mughal emperor Jahangir around 1600. A rare breed, only five other examples of this type are known.
4. Starry-eyed surprise
Another historic cross-cultural exchange presents itself in this porcelain cup, an intricate art project from the late 17th century. The blue-white palette is a stylish choice: In today's world, it presents itself in the nautical-inspired stripes and mosaic hues of summer holidays — but back in the day, Chinese makers favoured starburst and lattice patterns. The Europeans had something to add to this intricacy as well in gilded silver mounts.
5. Flying without wings
This tea caddy's a clever dupe — if you thought it's one of China's porcelain beauties, think again. Made entirely of copper, this 18th-century Guangzhou native employed the European techniques of enameling copper. A method introduced by Jesuit missionaries, the patterns often duplicated those found in porcelain. How it works: A layer of plain, opaque enamel is applied to a metal vessel which is then fired in a kiln, then painted with coloured enamels and fired again. Genius.
To learn how to adopt an object from the Asian Civilisations Museum, click here.
- Image: Asian Civilisations Museum
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