[Bottle, China, Cizhou ware, Ming dynasty, late 14th–15th century,
Stoneware with white slip under clear glaze, enamels over glaze
Gift of Charles Lang Freer. Freer Gallery of Art.]
Remember Whistler and Chinamania? Last year I mentioned the Freer Gallery's small exhibition that explores the artist's passion for blue-and-white Chinese export porcelain and ties into a major reinstallation of The Peacock Room, which is scheduled to be unveiled in April.
[Detail, doors in The Peacock Room.]
Architect Thomas Jeckyll originally designed the 19th-century London dining room as a space for British shipping magnate Frederick Leyland to display his blue-and-white collection. Whistler was consulted about paint colors but famously took it upon himself to boldly redecorate the interior while the client was away. Still, the Chinese porcelains remained a key focal point.
After Leyland's death, American collector Charles Lang Freer acquired the Peacock Room in 1904. It was dismantled and reinstalled in Freer's house in Detroit, and again used as a display space. But Freer preferred ceramics with more muted textures and subtle glazes, so he filled the shelves with his own pots gathered from Asia -- like the Ming dynasty bottle, shown above. When The Peacock Room reopens next month at the Freer Gallery in D.C., visitors will see the interior as it looked during the Freer years. You can check out the extensive ceramic collection here.