EXHIBITIONS | A Catalog to Covet Like an Ancient Chinese Mirror

At the opening events late last week for “Ancient Chinese Bronze Mirrors from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection,” a table was set in the corner of the room, covered with a black cloth. Opened on the table under a spotlight shone two sumptuous, richly illustrated and weighty volumes. Together they form The Lloyd Cotsen Study Collection of Chinese Bronze Mirrors, published by Cotsen Occasional Press/UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press.

Not only are the books visually impressive, the content is deep—the result of a decade of scholarship by the top academics in the field. Volume 1 (published in 2009) includes a thorough introduction by author Suzanne E. Cahill (professor at University of California, San Diego) followed by a complete catalog of the works in Cotsen’s collection of Chinese bronze mirrors (which will be donated to Shanghai Museum after their appearance in the Huntington exhibition).

Volume 2 (hot off the press this month) offers a deeper drilling into specific topics with 11 essays such as “Long-Distance Interactions as Reflected in the earliest Chinese Bronze Mirrors,” “Positioning the Heavenly Horses on Han Mirrors,” and “Mirrors Inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl.”

Bringing to life some of the themes covered in the books, The Huntington is hosting three talks by contributors, beginning this week with Cahill, who will present “Charts of the Cosmos: Chinese Bronze Mirrors and Textiles of the Warring States through the Tang Periods,” drawing from her research for her essay in Volume 2. The talk takes place Tuesday night, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m.

The second talk takes place Feb. 2, when the editor of both volumes, Lothar von Falkenhausen (scholar of art history and the archaeology of China at UCLA), will speak on “The Introduction of Mirrors into China and their Subsequent Transformation.”

And on April 19, the author of the essay “The Technical Analysis of Chinese Mirrors,” David Scott (art history professor at UCLA and chair of the UCLA/Getty Interdepartmental Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation), will explore authenticity issues surrounding ancient Chinese bronze mirrors.

All talks take place in Friends’ Hall and are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.

The hardcover set of The Lloyd Cotsen Study Collection of Chinese Bronze Mirrors ($450) is available at The Huntington’s Bookstore & More, 626-405-2142, e-mail: bookstore@huntington.org. The exhibition runs through May 14, 2012.

Captions: Mirror with Quatrefoil, Grass Motifs, Stars, and Linked Arc; inscribed; China, Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–8 CE). Bottom: Eight-Lobed Mirror Inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl, Turquoise, and Amber Showing Scene of Musicians and Foreign Dancer; China, Tang dynasty (618–907). Photographs by Bruce M. White, 2009.

Thea M. Page is art writer and special projects manager at The Huntington.

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