Nelson Atkins

The Chinese Collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Chinese collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is justly famous for its masterpieces, which represent almost every medium and period of Chinese artistic production. The full scope of the collection, comprising approximately 8,000 objects, is not as widely recognized. Included are 600 paintings, particularly Song period (960–1279) masterworks but also well-known literati paintings by Ming and Qing artists such as Zhou Chen, Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, Qiu Ying, Dong Qichang, Shitao, and Gong Xian, as well as interesting works by lesser-known professional painters. The Buddhist sculpture in the collection includes pieces from many of the major Buddhist cave temples, among which the Procession of the Empress as Donor relief from Longmen is widely celebrated. Later Buddhist sculpture includes the Guanyin of the Southern Seas and other carved wood figures of importance. A number of Buddhist murals dating from between the 10th and 14th century (including the Assembly of Tejaprabha from Guangshengsi), as well as 5th–6th-century fragments from Kizil, are also worthy of study. Ming and Qing furniture includes the famous canopy bed with alcove, as well as much other huanghuali furniture.

Less well known but also significant are the 700 textiles collected by Laurence Sickman while he was resident in China. Dating from mainly the Ming and Qing (but with a few Han-Tang examples), they include robes, rank badges, Buddhist banners, furnishings, and fragments. The strength of the ceramic holdings lies mainly in tomb figures from the early periods, but also includes Qing monochromes from Sickman’s collection. A large collection of rubbings (1,200) focuses mainly on Buddhist subjects. A small but distinguished collection of metalwork comprises ritual bronzes, including some important and rare pieces such as the Cheng Wang Ding, and some fine Tang-Yuan gold and silver. Funerary art includes the famous Sarcophagus of Filial Piety, panels from a 6th-century stone funerary couch, and a 6th-century tomb doorway.