Friday, January 16, 2009


Sitting Monkey, 2nd-1st centuries
State of Chu, Southern China
Lacquered carved wood
Mingqi (ming-chee, object for burial chamber)
Toledo Museum of Art 2005.49

Animals are fantastically prevalent in art throughout the centuries, from small companions and magical creatures to monkeys! Monkeys are so common in the TMA collection that there has been mention of having show just to showcase them. I discovered this wonderful little gem on my first jaunt into the Asian Galleries (and yes I should be reprimanded for not visiting them sooner, but hey my MA is in Modern and Contemporary Art! ;).

I think it is fairly cool that many of the objects I am attracted to, I later realize are highlights of the collection, which is also good because I need to build up that knowledge to be the best art librarian I can be of course.

This little monkey is particularly rare due to its age and being made out of wood, a material we would think would have long since ceased to exist after 2000 years in the form of this burial object. These figures were coated in a thin lacquer that proved resistant to insects and water. Funerary wares were so important during the Tang Dynasty that there was an government agency responsible for overseeing their manufacture. (

Yay for art, creativity and learning. A google search for mingqi brought up as a first hit an art project for students to create their own mingqi out of clay. The education programing that museums provide is fantastic, if you have a great kid in your life I highly recommend checking out what your local art center or museum offers for kids, from hour long drop in projects just for kids to recurring courses and activities for kids and adults to do together.

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