Among the frequent events dedicated to Asian art, very few focus on Vietnam, dealing rather with China, Japan or the Khmer area. Over the years, the Baur Collection, Museum of Far Eastern Art, has committed itself to showing to the public various facets of Asian cultures. By presenting an exhibition on the arts of ancient Vietnam, it fills a gap.
The Swedish connection
For the first time in decades, an emblematic collection of Vietnamese bronze and ceramic ware, originally assembled by the Swedish archaeologist Olov Janse (1892-1985), and later divided among the collections of the Cernuschi Museum and the Guimet Museum in Paris, has once again been brought together. This ensemble from French collections is completed by a number of prestigious Dông Son bronzes from the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, as well as important loans from the collections of Mr. George Ortiz and of Mrs Pham Lan Huong.
15 centuries of creation
This exhibition, divided into four sections, is an invitation to discover a little known and yet very original civilization. The bronze vessels and objects from the Dông Son period present a panorama of the production in northern Vietnam and the surrounding region during the Bronze Age, from the 5th to 3rd centuries BC, while the pieces dating from the Giao Chi period reveal the intense artistic activity which developed under Chinese occupation, from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD. A wide choice of ceramic ware reflects the growth of this art over a millennium and a half, and illustrates the cultural refinement reached under the Ly (1009-1225), Trân (1226-1400) and Lê (1428-1527) dynasties.
Vases, cups and incense burners
The first exhibition room presents weapons and ritual implements (daggers and axes), as well as various ornaments such as bracelets and decorative plaques belonging to the ruling Dông Son elite. In the second section, a remarkable ensemble of bronze vessels, including the famous drums, reveals the typical shapes and decorative motifs of the Dông Son culture. In contrast to this, the bronze and ceramic vases, cups, lamps and incense burners of the Giao Chi period borrow their designs from the repertoire of the Chinese Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). The third part of the exhibition illustrates the height of ceramic production under the Ly and Trân dynasties, characterized by simple, elegant lines and monochrome white, brown or celadon glazes. Various forms of decorated ceramics may be seen in the fourth and last section, with stoneware overlaid with iron brown, cobalt blue or polychrome designs.