See the May lecture for an explanation about the exhibition.
Tale of Genji, the first novel in the world, was written by Lady Murasaki in early eleventh-century Japan. It is a courtly romantic tale that was the most venerated literary work among Japanese aristocrats and samurai warriors during the Heian period (794–1185) when it was written, and then enjoyed even by commoners in later centuries. Consisting of 54 chapters, the Tale of Genji portrays the amorous life of Prince Hikaru Genji (‘Shining Genji’). The complexity of the tale is reflected in the entangled psychological situations of the characters. In this lecture, Masako Watanabe, retired senior research associate for Japanese Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, will first talk about the visualization of the complex inner feelings of the characters. Then, by focusing on images of the Third Princess – the young wife of Genji who has an illicit love affair with an aristocratic youth – she will explore how depictions of the princess drastically changes during the Edo period (1615-1868). The lecture will introduce a variety of images of the Tale of Genji from the earliest illustrations of the 12th century to modern manga renditions of the tale.
Japanese netsuke, a unique utilitarian art form, and their related appurtenances will be discussed by Marsha Vargas Handley. The talk will explain the utilitarian purpose, history and the variety of types and subjects that can be found in the miniature sculpture used to suspend items from a Japanese man’s obi sash.
Sasanians saw themselves as successors of the Achaemenid Persians from the classical Persian empire founded by Cyrus. Sasanian art is a combination of Near-Eastern and Greco Roman traditions. Due to the Silk Road and trade, the influence of Sasanian art was felt as far as China and Byzantium. Islamic art was heavily indebted to Sasanian art in such forms as the arabesque pattern and the niches and domes in mosque design. Lily Birmingham, a member of the AAC Study Group who participated in their exploration of Persian art history will discuss various works of art from decorative goods, utilitarian items and architecture. She will also tie the period to our newly opened Arts of Iran gallery by telling about some of the objects now on display.
The opening of Japan in the 1850’s to trade with Western nations inspired “Japonism,” the widespread public enthusiasm in North America and Europe for “artistic” Japanese and Japanese-style consumer goods affordable by all economic classes. This illustrated talk by Will Chandler, former curator of Decorative Arts at SDMART, will survey the ways in which Japanese exporters invented new kinds of artistic products to help pay for modernization, and how American merchants presented Japanese culture and Japanese goods to attract buyers. Will’s presentation is based on his essay in John Vollmer’s Re-Envisioning Japan, Meiji Fine Art Textiles, published by 5 Continents Press in 2016, the cover of which illustrates a Meiji era silk tapestry in the SDMA collection donated by Archer Huntington in 1939.