Interweaving Cultures along the Silk Road(s)


September 4 – December 13, 2020

The term “Silk Road,” which may conjure up an image of camels plodding across the desert on one contiguous road, was invented in the 19th century to describe the many different trade routes that flourished between Europe and Asia from the 2nd century BCE to the mid-15th century. ​This virtual exhibition highlights objects from the Spencer Museum of Art that reflect how artwork, design, trade goods, medicine, religion, and people traveled both over land and by sea and stimulated new cultural forms and ideas in Asia, Africa, and beyond that continue today. These exchanges took place across wide swaths of time and space that were both real and imagined. Selected works correspond to one or more of these four broadly conceived themes: Textiles, Buddhism, Orientalism, and Amalgamations.

Curated by: Sherry Fowler, Professor, History of Art Department, University of Kansas

As a companion to this exhibition, the symposium Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s) will be held September 11–12, 2020, via Zoom. Register for the symposium here.

Vairocana

September 4 – December 13, 2020

The term “Silk Road,” which may conjure up an image of camels plodding across the desert on one contiguous road, was invented in the 19th century to describe the many different trade routes that flourished between Europe and Asia from the 2nd century BCE to the mid-15th century. ​This virtual exhibition highlights objects from the Spencer Museum of Art that reflect how artwork, design, trade goods, medicine, religion, and people traveled both over land and by sea and stimulated new cultural forms and ideas in Asia, Africa, and beyond that continue today. These exchanges took place across wide swaths of time and space that were both real and imagined. Selected works correspond to one or more of these four broadly conceived themes: Textiles, Buddhism, Orientalism, and Amalgamations.

Curated by: Sherry Fowler, Professor, History of Art Department, University of Kansas

As a companion to this exhibition, the symposium Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s) will be held September 11–12, 2020, via Zoom. Register for the symposium here.


Textiles are often interwoven or imprinted with rich sources of cultural fusion. Silk, as the emblematic material of the Silk Road(s), along with other fabrics, offers an often personal and tactile experience of cultural exchange well beyond the visual. Some pieces offer traces of cultural specificity, such as a textile fragment from India with a repeating cow pattern and a Chinese Daoist priest’s robe, while the origins of others might be unexpected upon first glance, such as an indigo cloth from Nigeria and a Coptic textile fragment from Egypt.


Buddhism is a religion that originated in India. As its practices spread over the centuries throughout Asia, Buddhist forms were localized into new environments. Impressive images of deities, such as a painting of Vairocana and sculpture of Amida, were made to inspire awareness of Buddhist ideals, facilitate salvation, and provide merit for donors. Smaller, modest items made for pilgrims to carry away from a sacred site, such as a Burmese clay votive tablet (tsa-tsa), became vehicles for the transmission of Buddhist forms while texts like the Indian palm-leaf sutra were made to spread Buddhist doctrine.


Orientalism is the European and American depiction of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa that developed out of colonial ideology. An 1819 lithograph shows a proud French explorer who seems to conquer a colossal Egyptian head by taking its measurements. The Worcester porcelain teapot, Dutch bowl, and blue-and-white English saucer show how imagined images of “the Orient” were exoticized, popularized, and marketed in ceramics for mass consumption in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. Anne Allen’s French etching from circa 1796 bears a fanciful design of invented scenes of China (chinoiserie). Meanwhile, Yoonmi Nam’s lithograph Toile references the repeating patterns used in 18th-century European printed fabrics, yet she exchanges their oft-used chinoiserie patterns with an innovative motif of a collapsing American house.


Amalgamations includes works that blend cultural forms within Asia. The lavishly illustrated 19th-century banquet screen made in Korea depicts scenes from the life of a legendary Chinese general. Artist Yoshida Hiroshi traveled from Japan to India, where he carefully captured the details of his subject in Moonlight at Taj Mahal, yet he rendered this 1931 work in a new style of Japanese woodblock print. The artist Ōura Nobuyuki appropriated Nepalese or Tibetan Buddhist motifs to enhance one of the lithographs in his controversial Holding Perspectives, a portfolio of thirteen prints made in 1982–1983 that includes images of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito.


Considering the descriptions above, viewers of the exhibition will conclude that most of the objects intersect with more than one category. In this virtual arena that gives equal space to each work, whether large or small, visitors are encouraged to consider the ways that these objects relate to one another and fall within one or more of the four Silk Road(s)-related themes.



unknown maker from Egypt

Coptic textile fragment, Coptic period (300 CE–700 CE),
linen, wool
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0017


unknown maker from China

Daoist priest's robe (jiangyi), late 1800s or early 1900s, Qing dynasty (1644–1911),
silk, gold thread, k'o-ssu
Gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Ellis, 1946.0028


unknown maker from Persia (present-day Iran)

textile fragment, 1700s or 1800s,
silk, satin brocading, metal thread
Source unknown, 0000.0173


unknown maker from India or Pakistan

embroidered cloth, 1800s–early 1900s,
cotton, embroidering
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0881


unknown maker from India

textile fragment, 1800s,
silk, silver thread, brocade, satin, weaving
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0864


unknown Hausa-Fulani maker, Active Locations: western Kebbi, Sokoto, northern Zamfara, Katsina, northern Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, eastern Bauchi, and northern Gombe, Nigeria

indigo cloth, 1980,
cotton, indigo, tie-dyeing
Gift of Professor Beverly Mack, 2011.0245


unknown Hausa-Fulani maker, western Kebbi, Sokoto, northern Zamfara, Katsina, northern Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, eastern Bauchi, and northern Gombe, Nigeria

wrap skirt, 1979,
cotton, resist dyeing
Gift of Professor Beverly Mack, C2011.073.02


unknown maker from Egypt

Coptic textile fragment, Coptic period (300 CE–700 CE),
wool, linen
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0122


unknown maker from India

Kashmir shawl, circa 1875–1899, cashmere, wool, twill, embroidering
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0754


unknown maker from India

woman's tunic (aba), 1800s–early 1900s,
silk, mirror, satin, embroidering
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0873


unknown maker from Japan

ohi, 1700s or 1800s, Edo period (1600–1868),
silk, foil, paper, twill, patchwork
Gift in memory of James H. Walker Jr., by his family, 1993.0347


unknown maker from China

woman's pleated wedding skirt, 1800s, Qing dynasty (1644–1912),
silk damask, gold thread, ribbon, cotton, embroidering
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 0000.1032.a,b


Buddhism


unknown maker from China

Vairocana, 1454, Ming dynasty (1368–1644),
ink, color, silk
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Fund, and Helen Foresman Spencer Art Acquisition Fund, 1996.0106


unknown maker from Japan

Daruma, early 1800s, Edo period (1600–1868),
wood, gesso, pigments, gilding, carving
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Art Acquisition Fund, 2012.0093.a-c


unknown maker from Japan

Amitābha (阿弥陀仏 Amida butsu; 阿弥陀如来 Amida nyorai), circa 1400s, Muromachi period (1338–1573),
wood, lacquer, kirikane
Museum purchase and Gift of Dr. W. Clarke and Barbara Benton Wescoe, 1990.0080


unknown maker from Burma

votive tablet (tsa-tsa), 1700s–1800s,
clay
Gift of Dr. Mary F. Gray, 1997.0444.01


unknown maker from India

sutra (in Pali), late 1800s,
palm leaves, incising, paint, wood
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.1953


unknown maker from Japan

Kannon (Avalokitesvara), 1300s–late 1400s, Nambokuchō period (1337–1392) to Muromachi period (1338–1573),
ink, color, cut gold leaf, silk
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Fund, 2000.0138


Kano Kazunobu, 1815–1863

Shakyamuni undergoing austerities, mid 1800s, Edo period (1600–1868),
ink, silk
Gift of Elsie Anna Wilson Trust, 1994.0113


unknown maker from Japan

Shaka Triad with Sixteen Deities, 1800s, Edo period (1600–1868) or Meiji period,
woodcut
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. George A. Colom, 1986.0091


unknown maker from China

Fish-Basket Guanyin, 1700s–1800s, Qing dynasty (1644–1911),
ivory, paint
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0569.a,b


unknown maker from Japan

Hyakuman-tō (three-tiered pagoda), 1700s or 1800s, Edo period (1600–1868),
wood, pigment
Gift of Melvin Dwork in memory of John Butler, 2005.0078


unknown maker from Korea

Kundika (water vessel), circa 1100s, Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), stoneware, glaze
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0630


Orientalism


John Rogers & Sons, active 1818–1836

plate, 1815–1842,
transferware, earthenware
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.2058


Godefroy Engelmann, 1788–1839

Monsieur Drovetti et sa suite mesurant un fragment de colosse dans la haute Egypte (Mr. Drovetti and his followers measure a fragment of a colossus in Upper Egypt), 1819,
lithograph, wove paper
Museum purchase: Letha Churchill Walker Memorial Art Fund, 2011.0025


Worcester Porcelain Company

teapot with cover, circa 1750–1780,
porcelain
Gift from The Frank P. and Harriet C. Burnap Collection, 1937.0088.a,b


Petrus Regout, 1801–1878

bowl, circa 1891–early 1900s,
transferware, earthenware, faience
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.3504


unknown maker from England, United Kingdom

saucer, mid 1800s,
transferware, earthenware
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.3182


Anne Allen, artist, late 1700s
after Jean-Baptist Pillement, 1728–1808

untitled (chinoiserie design), circa 1796,
etching, à la poupée, laid paper
Museum purchase: Lucy Shaw Schultz Fund, 1992.0156


Yoonmi Nam, born 1974

Toile, 2012,
lithograph
Gift of Yoonmi Nam, 2015.0052.11


Amalgamations


Oura Nobuyuki, born 1949
Yosuke Akiba, Publishers 21st Century, Inc., publisher
Okabe Print Studio, printer
Print House OM, printer

I, 1982–1983, Showa period (1926–1989),
screen print, lithograph
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Fund, 2002.0032.01


unknown maker from Korea

郭汾陽行樂圖 Gwakbunyang hyangrakdo (Guo Ziyi‘s Enjoyment-of-Life Banquet Screen), early 1800s, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910),
ink, color, silk
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 2015.0061


Yoshida Hiroshi, 1876–1950

Tsukiyo no tajimaharu, dai shi (Moonlight at Taj Mahal No. 4), 1931, Showa period (1926–1989),
color woodcut
Gift of Christopher Bunn, Class of 2002, 2003.0095


unknown maker from China

Bactrian camel (tomb figure), 800s, Tang dynasty (618 CE–907 CE),
terracotta, polychromy
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Forrest E. Jones, 1950.0092


Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1797–1861

Bodaichū Kodaisō attended by the Physician Shini Andōzen, circa 1827–1830, Edo period (1600–1868),
color woodcut
Gift of H. Lee Turner, 1968.0001.074


Li Shan, born 1926

Camel Riders on Tianshan, 1979,
ink, color, paper
Museum purchase, 1982.0102


unknown maker from China

bianhu (pilgrimage flask) with dancing monkey, 600–700s, early Tang dynasty (618 CE–907 CE),
molded porcelain
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Art Acquisition Fund, 2010.0030


Jellal Ben Abdallah, 1921–2017

Orchestre sous-marine (Underwater Orchestra), 1969,
watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, paper
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.0061


Calcutta Art Studio

Kali, circa 1890,
lithograph, hand coloring
Museum purchase: R. Charles and Mary Margaret Clevenger Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.0347


unknown maker from Korea

tea bowl, 1500s, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910),
Buncheong ware, stoneware, glaze
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0432


unknown maker from Korea

covered box, 1200s–1300s, Goryeo dynasty (918–1392),
cheongja ware, stoneware, celadon glaze, sanggam inlay
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0618.a,b


As a companion to this exhibition, the symposium Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s) will be held September 11–12, 2020, via Zoom.