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2016 Lecture

Allusions and Illusions, A Stroll through the Qianlong Emperor's Garden

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Within the Forbidden City, the Qianlong Garden with its 26 buildings and pavilions, designed inside and out by the emperor is a thrilling manifestation of an emperor's visual imagination. One of the world's greatest art connoisseurs, the 18th century Qianlong Emperor, collected a myriad of ancient masterpieces, but also relished his privileged opportunity to work with the finest artists and artisans to design and create all manner of inspired objects. With a deep knowledge of Chinese artistic traditions and a hungry interest in European aesthetics and styles, he and his workers produced extraordinary porcelains, trompe-l'oeil murals and fantastical garden estates, the likes of which had never before been seen in China.

Nancy Berliner, PhD., a historian of Chinese art and architecture, is the Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her most recent exhibition is “Court Ladies or Pin-Up Girls? Chinese Painting from the Museum of Fine Arts.” Until 2012, she was the Curator of Chinese Art at the Peabody Essex Museum and curator of Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year old rural Chinese house now at the Peabody Essex Museum. She also serves as an interpretive and curatorial advisor to the World Monuments Fund on the Qianlong Garden, Forbidden City, conservation project in Beijing.

Her undergraduate and graduate studies were done at Harvard University, and she did additional studies at the Central Academy of Art in Beijing. Her research, writing and curatorial work has considered a broader definition of Chinese art, including Chinese architecture, gardens and furniture, as well as popular and vernacular cultures.

She is the author of Chinese Folk Art: The Small Skills of Carving Insects; Friends of the House, Furniture of China’s Towns and Villages; Beyond the Screen, Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17th Centuries; Yin Yu Tang, the Daily Life and Architecture of a Chinese House, which was selected as a Notable Book of 2003 by the New York Times Book Review Section; co-author with Edward Cooke of Inspired by China: Contemporary Furnituremakers Explore Chinese Traditions, and editor of Juanqinzhai in the Qianlong Garden. She has curated exhibitions of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum, the China Institute, Yale University Art Gallery and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She is curator of the exhibition The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City, (seen at Peabody Essex Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Milwaukee Museum of Art) and author of the exhibition’s accompanying book. She is currently completing a book and preparing an exhibition on the Chinese tradition bapo painting, trompe-l’oeil depictions of collaged literati ephemera.

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The Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture Series features a yearly lecture and seminar presented by leading scholars on Chinese art and archaeology.
Event Information
  • Lecture
    Saturday, November 5, 2016
    2:00 PM
  • Seminar
    Friday, November 4, 2016
    2:00 PM
Other Years

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