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Join the Friends of the Oriental Museum

10 April 2024 - 10 April 2024

6:00PM - 7:30PM

Elvet Hill House 009

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A Friends of the Oriental Museum lecture by Colin Sheaf, Chairman of the Sir Percival David Foundation

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Underglaze blue porcelain plate from the Malcolm MacDonald collection. Yongzheng reign (1722-1735 CE)

During the first half of the 20th century, European scholars and collectors discovered many unfamiliar aspects of the historic culture of imperial China.

Traditional palace life in Beijing’s ‘Forbidden City’ had disintegrated after 1911 under the republican government. For the first time, imperial art masterpieces began to be offered to private collectors. An English lawyer Sir Percival David, born into Asia’s famous Sassoon trading family, and Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald, politician and diplomat (son of the first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald), were two of the most important European collectors of these works. They responded in different manners to the unprecedented opportunities, but both compiled large collections with some of the finest pieces.

In this lecture, Colin Sheaf, Chairman of the Sir Percival David Foundation, illustrates many of the finest pieces in these two collections, and discusses the evolution of imperial taste as revealed in these ceramics, which were often commissioned by the emperors themselves, as well as their contributions to the knowledge and scholarship of Chinese ceramics and Chinese art more broadly.