Tracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, presented a lecture last month in conjunction with the new exhibition of Ming court art at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL. Her lecture, entitled “Architecture and the Yongle Emperor’s (r. 1402-1424) Imperial Vision,” was one of several presentations by noted Ming Dynasty scholars from American museums and universities that built on examples of the rich material culture of this period featured in the exhibition Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China.
On view through January 10, the exhibit was curated by Fan Zhang, the Helga Wall-Apelt Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Ringling Museum. Zhang earned a master’s degree in art history from Vanderbilt in 2003. His thesis, “Reading Murals in the Eastern Mausoleum: The Qidan Construction of Ethnic Identity,” was done under the direction of Miller, a specialist in the history of Asian art and architecture, especially the ritual architecture of imperial China.
Miller’s research focuses on the impact of belief in divinity on the production of art, architecture, and spaces for spiritual encounters. She is author of The Divine Nature of Power: Chinese Ritual Architecture at the Sacred Site of Jinci (Harvard University Asia Center, 2007).
Primarily through Zhang’s efforts, the exhibition has brought many objects to the United States for the first time and will provide a more complete understanding of the importance of the Ming princes and the role they played in shaping Ming culture. Royal Taste offers a unique glimpse into the luxurious lifestyles and religious practices of princely courts in early- and mid-Ming China (1368-1644). The exhibit reveals some lesser known aspects of palatial lives, religious patronage, and afterlife beliefs of Ming princes, whose world has long been a mystery.
One of a pair of gold hairpins in the shape of a phoenix, mid-16th century, 25 x 7.1 x 1.5 cm. On loan from the Hubei Provincial Museum, P.R. China.