The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is showcasing an exhibition called Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth Century China through January 10, 2016. The exhibition has over 140 works of pictorial, sculptural, and decorative arts that reveal exceptional aspects of palatial lives, religious patronage, and afterlife beliefs of Ming princes.
Royal Taste offers a unique glimpse into the luxurious lifestyles and religious practices of princely courts in early- and mid-Ming China (1368-1644). The world of Ming princes has long been a mystery. Scholars have traditionally paid close attention to the capitals of this powerful and wealthy empire, yet neglected its provincial areas, where princes were often granted their own fiefdoms to protect the central throne.
As local branches of an extended imperial system, princely courts not only provide a vivid manifestation of the art and culture of the imperial court but also showcase traditions and fashions among local elites in the provinces. Since many princes dedicated themselves to artistic, literary, and theatrical pursuits, their patronage and consumption of the arts provide a distinctive lens through which to view the cultural, religious, and social activities of Ming nobility. The quality of craftsmanship and beauty of design testify to the richness and sophistication of the art and culture of the nobility in the provinces.
The majority of the objects on view were selected from recent archaeological finds now in the collections of four museums in Hubei province in China, and from imperially-commissioned statues housed at Daoist temples on Mount Wudang, the birthplace of tai chi. Through these important loans— all of which are traveling to the US for the first time—the exhibition provides a more complete understanding of the visual and religious worlds of Ming princes and demonstrates the vital role of their courts in shaping Ming material culture.
This semester, Museum Education and Visitor-Centered Exhibitions (MEX) students taking the ARE 5930 Visitor Studies class applied research at our partner museum, the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. The MEX program incorporates a semester-long internship at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, for second-year students in the program. This year, MEX students Victoria Eudy, Aja Roche, Sarah Gladwin, Susan Mann, and Maghan Stone began their Visitor Studies course at the museum from September 4-5, 2015.
During those initial days, the students gained a first-hand look at the inner workings of the museum. They conducted a visitor study related to The Ringling’s fall special exhibition, Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth Century China. The study incorporates gallery observations, exit surveys and interviews, and interpretation prototypes to better determine what visitors know about Asian art, would like to learn more about, and how to engage visitors with artworks in the museum galleries. Victoria Eudy worked closely with the docent program, educational program writing, and Bayfront Garden interpretive materials. Maghan Stone also aided with family and adult programs during her internship.
The study’s findings will be presented to Ringling staff members on Friday, December 11, 2015. The FSU Department of Art Education hopes that the study’s results are beneficial to the museum staff as they prepare for two upcoming Asian art exhibitions and the opening of the new Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art in February of 2016.