The works of art illustrated in this book have been selected for the most part from private collections. it has been possible to reproduce objects which are unknown to the general reader, and which have only been seen very rarely in specialist exhibitions. Many of them have never been published previously; others only in specialist reviews or catalogues. We have thus been able to base our study of the essentials of the history of Chinese art on very interesting documentary examples.
We have confined ourselves to four aspects of art, leaving to one side painting, which would require a much more detailed study than has been possible here, as well as the more episodal techniques, such as lacquer, cloisonné enamels, textiles, and silver. The arts discussed here cover a period of history extending over four millennia. These are bronzes, jades, sculpture, and ceramics. The bronzes, mysterious and technically unequalled, at first hear witness to an austere religious ritual prevailing in the earliest times, gradually to become an art of ornament and decoration. The jades, almost sacred in Chinese eyes, are remarkable also for the hours of patience and skill needed to produce them. Sculpture is really inseparable from the bronzes and jades, since many sculptural masterpieces are in these materials, although, in general, the art of sculpture is manifested in stone. However, here we arrive at a perplexing problem. Although it may not be difficult to find landmarks of technical development in bronze and jade in Western collections, it is really impossible to outline a history of Chinese sculpture without mentioning the enormous monumental carvings which exist in that country. We have been able partly to surmount this difficulty by reproducing some famous pieces now in museums. The great public collections have also come to our aid with many archaic bronzes, enabling us to achieve continuity. The last part of the hook is devoted to a rapid survey of the principal aspects of Chinese ceramics. We have been purposely brief on this subject, since Professor Fujio Koyama's important work on the ceramic art of Asia has recently appeared in this series.
The choice of plates and commentaries is the result of the combined research of M. Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard and myself. M. Moreau-Gobard has been responsible for choosing the pieces from his vast knowledge of the important collections of Europe. He has done much research on many of the objects, and has collected the material for the greater number of the captions. He has also supervised the difficulties of colored illustrations, involving, as it often does, careful comparison with the original.
This book is primarily intended to be a collection of plates illustrating the important stages in the history of Chinese art. It is difficult to express adequately our thanks to the many private collectors and curators of museums who have allowed us to reproduce their treasures. It would be impossible to mention them all, but we owe a special debt of gratitude to those among them who have so kindly provided interesting documentary information on the objects, and who have helped us with invaluable advice.
Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt . . .