Symbolizing the beauty and majesty of Chinese imperial power, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is showcasing an exhibition of objects that once adorned an exclusive compound in the Forbidden City.
The exhibition, which runs from February1-May1, 2011, is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in partnership with the Palace Museum and in cooperation with World Monuments Fund.
Additional support is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Freeman Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ECHO (Education through Cultural & Historical Organizations).
The Forbidden City is an imperial palace which served as a political center of the Chinese government for hundreds of years. Located in the middle of Beijing, the palace is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site housing one of the largest collections of preserved ancient wooden structures during the era of the Ming and the Qing dynasties.
The Qianlong Garden, located within the palace, was constructed during 1771-1776 for the purpose of the intended retirement of Emperor Qianlong. The emperor was the fourth monarch of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) who reigned from 1736 to 1795.
Some of the finest artisans in the country were called to create intricately embellished interior and exterior spaces for the exclusive garden.
However, the emperor never retired and the garden, relatively untouched since imperial times, remains a virtual time capsule of 18th-century taste at its most extravagant.
It was in 2002 that the World Monuments Fund began a partnership with the Palace Museum to help restore the Qianlong Gardens and to assist in training Chinese conservators to tackle the challenges associated with the process.
WMF and the Palace Museum completed the conservation of the first pavilion, Juanqinzhai, or the Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service in 2008.
Juanqinzhai is noted for the unique silk trompe l'oeil paintings on the ceiling and walls of its private theater and its jewel box of a reception room containing unusually fine bamboo thread marquetry and inner bamboo skin carvings, as well as jade inlays and sophisticated textile decorations.
The exhibition, titled The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City, is installed in the Metropolitan's Galleries for Chinese Painting and Calligraphy. The display hall will lead visitors through a series of thematic galleries, much as the actual garden was intended to lead visitors through a series of courtyards.
Highlights of the exhibition will include an imposing portrait of the Qianlong Emperor, a radiant silk panel depicting a Buddhist shrine, magnificent thrones executed with impeccable craftsmanship, and a monumental jade-and-lacquer screen consisting of 16 panels.
Augmenting the objects will be photo murals of the Qianlong Garden as well as a video-simulated walk-through of the Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service (Juanqinzhai).