Early Collectors of Asian Art
Narasimha: The Lion Avatar
COVER: Line drawing and inscription on
page 34 of Wu Dacheng’s Gu yu tu kao
(1889), exactly matching the ROM’s bi
and the inscription on the stand
(Photograph: Brian Boyle, courtesy of the
Royal Ontario Museum; © ROM)
At the heart of this issue are stories of individuals whose fascination for Asian art still resonates through some of the great public and private collections today. Each story pivots on the relationship that collectors have with the great works that inevitably outlast them. One such account is given by Chen Shen, who follows the journey of a singular cang bi, now in the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), that once belonged to Wu Dacheng. Sara Irwin and Chen Shen go on to reevaluate the provenance of the ROM’s formative ‘Jincun’ Collection of Shang and Zhou dynasty works, acquired for the museum by Bishop William White. Li Diandian’s examination of the Vladimir G. Simkhovitch collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art provides insights into the complex international Chinese art market in the first half of the 20th century. And Nataša Vampelj Suhadolnik finds that, when it comes to intrepid collectors, perhaps none was as courageous as Alma M. Karlin, whose legacy is now being assessed at the Celje Regional Museum and the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Also in this issue, John Guy introduces a newly acquired set of 18th century wood masks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and gives a scholarly interpretation of the dramatic veneration of Narasimha (Vishnu-man-lion avatar) as part of temple celebrations in South India.