Hardstone carving is one of the oldest arts in China, dating back to the fifth millennium B.C. It was not until the Qing dynasty, however, that an abundant supply of raw material, extraordinary craftsmanship, and keen imperial patronage allowed the art to flourish. During the 18th century, widespread prosperity and successful military campaigns brought political stability, while also securing the trade routes that permitted the importation of gemstones over the Silk Roads and through sea trade routes from as far away as Europe.
Showcasing a selection of 75 exquisite carvings drawn from The Met collection, this exhibition presents the lapidary art of China's Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Featuring not only jade, the most esteemed of East Asian gems, but also agate, malachite, turquoise, quartz, amber, coral, and lapis lazuli, the exhibition reveals the extensive variety of hardstones and full palette of vibrant colors that were favored at the imperial court. Exploring the diverse subjects and styles of Qing lapidary art, Colors of the Universe illustrates the extraordinary imagination and technical virtuosity behind these miniature sculptures.
The exhibition is made possible by the Joseph Hotung Fund.
Water dropper in the shape of a crane, 18th century. China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Carnelian and white agate; H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm), W. 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Heber R. Bishop, 1902 (02.18.876a, b)