Skip to main content

This is your Donation message.

Home » News » The Ringling Presents Eternal Offerings: Chinese Ritual Bronzes from the Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Ringling Presents Eternal Offerings: Chinese Ritual Bronzes from the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Published March 7, 2017

Ladle. Early Western Zhou dynasty, 11th-10th century BCE Bronze 8 1/2 in. (21.59 cm). Bequest of Alfred F. Pillsbury 50.46.30.

Demonstrating a continuing interest and commitment to the study of Asian Art, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art presents Eternal Offerings, which showcases nearly 100 Chinese bronze objects from the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia).
Mia’s Asian art collection is considered one of the most important in the United States, and this exhibition at The Ringling is the first time these significant objects will have toured.

When The Ringling opened the Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art in May 2016, it was with the goal to continue to cultivate partnerships with individuals and institutions around the globe, creating a site for scholars and enthusiasts of Asian art and culture. Bringing this significant collection to our galleries from the Minneapolis Institute of Art reaffirms this commitment.

-Steven High, Executive Director

Wine vessel gu. Late Shang dynasty, 12th-11th century BCE Bronze. 11 3/4 x 6 5/8 x 6 5/8 in. (29.85 x 16.83 x 16.83 cm) Bequest of Alfred F. Pillsbury 50.46.45.

The works showcased span millenia, revealing the evolution of bronzes in Chinese society. The exhibition highlights the many uses of these objects including their role in ancestral rites, as symbols of power and supremacy, as vessels for burial, and as luxury items and art objects. Eternal Offerings also looks at how inscriptions on bronzes can uncover information on
the nature of rituals. Like many societies, China’s social cohesion was formed around ritual. Most of the objects for these early rituals were made of bronze, and due to their important social function, we can extrapolate that the forms and ornamentation depicted on them relate to some of the primary concerns of their societies. Additionally, the possession of bronze objects signified elite status.

Works in the exhibition point to the various types of rituals found in early Chinese dynasties including ancestral, funereal and musical. Music was an integral element in communicating with spirits. Visitors to the show will be able to see several sets of bells that were important adjuncts in these ceremonies.

Eternal Offerings also demonstrates the significant role of inscriptions on bronzes, especially in the later Western Zhou dynasty. The notations often identify the person who made the piece, the event to which the vessel was dedicated, and the ritual in which it was used. As the system of rites concerning ceremonies, military campaigns, feasts and meetings evolved, so too did the inscriptions found on these objects. “The amount of nuance and knowledge in these relatively small objects is astounding,” remarked Christopher Jones, associate curator of photography and exhibitions at The Ringling.

About Minneapolis Institute of Art

Home to more than 89,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) inspires wonder, spurs creativity, and nourishes the imagination. With extraordinary exhibitions and one of the finest wide-ranging art collections in the country – Rembrandt to van Gogh, Monet to Matisse, Asian to African – Mia links the past to the present, enables global conversations, and offers an exceptional setting for inspiration. General admission to Mia is always free.