Vanderpoel Gallery of Asian Art

Collector and Donor Emily Vanderpoel in her NYC apartment, surrounded by her collection of Asian Art.

Mrs. Vanderpoel pictured at her Grammercy Park home.

In 1935, Slater Memorial Museum director Hannah Dodge pursued New York collector Emily Noyes Vanderpoel in hopes of acquiring the donation of Mrs. Vanderpoel’s extensive collection of East Asian art and artifacts. The success of that acquisition led other donors in the succeeding 85 years to add to the collection. It includes Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, and Chinese objects. Materials and techniques include ceramics, ivories, silk textiles, fans, woodblock prints, and metalwork.         

The first display of the objects was installed shortly after Mrs. Vanderpoel made her donation. The gallery was refreshed in 2011 when the Atrium was completed and the entire museum was re-installed and re-interpreted. Even then, museum staff realized that the research was lacking and that the objects had even more exciting stories to tell.

An example is the collection of Japanese Netsuke, a unique form of purse closure.  These skillfully carved miniatures embody Japanese folk tales and parables in delightful caricatures, now on display and interpreted for the first time ever in the museum.

Also newly-displayed is a replica terra cotta Qin Shi Warrior. Thousands of remarkable figures were discovered in China during the 1970s and the site has been undergoing excavation for decades. Further study found that, like ancient Greek statuary, the ceramic warriors had been polychromed. The replica within the gallery has been painted based upon a traditional color scheme that other warriors could have featured.

A man in a blue robe sits in the background. Two women sit in the foreground on either side of him. They wear red robes.

Aquamedia, 19th century
Gift of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel

This traditional portrait depicts members of the Chinese scholar‐official class. The Rank Badge appears to be a wild Goose indicating fourth rank (among nine). The sitters appear to be siblings of the same generation; three sisters and two brothers. They wear semi‐formal robes and the artist carefully employs a pointillist method of applying color. Much like classic western depictions of wealthy individuals and families painted by notable artists such as Sargent, Copley, Crocker, and Emmons, this group portrait reflects one of many generations of Chinese families that played an important role in the inner-workings of China’s bureaucracy during the Qing Dynasty.

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) was the final era of Chinese imperial rule, before succumbing to political instability and collapse, leading up to the invasion of China by Japan in 1931. Founded by Manchu clans, the dynasty chose the name “Qing” meaning either “pure” or “clear.” The ruling classes of the Qing Dynasty took on cultural roles as active patrons of Chinese arts and heritage that served in important government capacities. Many of these individuals were skilled in the arts and were known as “literati” or “scholar-officials.” Over the course of a century after the founding of the Qing Dynasty, China’s political and economic influence expanded greatly. Chinese material goods were imported throughout Western Europe and America leading to the art movement known as “Chinoiserie” in which western artists imitated the Chinese aesthetic in decorative arts, furniture, architecture, and more throughout the eighteenth century. This influence began to change into the nineteenth century when Western Europe and the United States began to rapidly industrialize their economies. Life-changing innovations and cultural shifts caused western nations to view countries such as China as being virtual relics of a bygone era, in need of assistance from more powerful and ‘civilized’ societies.

Octagonal dish with concave surface. Blue and white design depicts water, a bridge, willow tree, and two birds.

Porcelain, 19th century
Gift of Aileen Dodge

This salt cellar, dating from the 19th century, illustrates an interesting cyclical aspect to international porcelain production. The pattern that appears on the top of the item is informed by the Willow Pattern. The Willow Pattern was developed by English ceramic manufacturers around 1780 in imitation of Chinese shan shui (hills and streams) designs. The pattern was so popular it became generic in English manufacturing by 1814 and out-sold Chinese porcelain. In response, Chinese artists hand-painted an imitation of this faux-Chinese design onto their export goods to better compete for buyers.
Blue and white porcelain bowl with scalloped edges. Scenes of houses and landscape elements are on the body of bowl.

Porcelain, 19th century
Gift of Aileen Dodge

This bowl is a fine example of 19th-century Canton ware. After the U.S. formally became a trading partner with China in 1784, this type of porcelain was exported in great numbers by the 19th century. The lattice border and scallop shell identify this bowl's border as a Canton border. By this time period, the hand-painted landscape scenes that appeared on porcelain such as this were conventionalized to reduce production costs and better compete with English manufacturers. This helped to make Canton ware even more affordable to the American buyer.

celadon glaze with mishima decoration in white and black slip - tree and floral design

Ceramic, 935-1391
Gift of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel

While Korean potters first obtained the knowledge of celadon ceramics from China’s Song Dynasty, they perfected the type by the 12th century. Korean celadons are widely admired by scholars and collectors alike. The soft gray-green color of this glaze known as "celadon" derives from a European term to describe the unique range of colors that are created through the use of an iron-rich slip, a glaze with a low percentage of iron oxide, and fired in an oxygen-reducing kiln. A character in the French pastoral novel L'Astre by Honore d'Urfe, was named Celadon. Published in the early 17th century, the work became popular and was rendered theatrically. The green-gray color of the character's costume became highly fashionable and instantly recognizable. During the 19th century, the characters' name - Celadon - began to be used by Europeans to describe this specific category of ceramic wares.

Porcelain bowl - famille rose glaze with white interior

Porcelain, c. 1820-1850
Gift of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel

The reign mark of Emperor Yongzheng, the fourth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), appears on the foot of this vessel helping us to date it to the Qing Dynasty – the last Imperial Dynasty of China.  It was during the Qing Dynasty that colored glaze palettes were developed, including the rose color observed on this monochrome bowl.
Men and women build a giant snow frog in a winter scene.

From the Series Genji in the Twelve Months
Utagawa Kunisada I (Toyokuni III), Japanese
Ukiyo-e (Wood Block Print), 1858
Gift of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel

Written in the early 11th century, the Tale of Genji is considered one of the most critically acclaimed works in Japanese history. Considered by many as the first novel, it became immensely popular in Japan and influenced literature, theater and art. In the 1820s, a parody of the novel was written by Ryutai Tanchicko which further sparked the influence of Genji in the arts. Woodblock prints from the 19th century depict scenes from both the original Genji as well as the parody.

Prior to 1873, Japan used a lunar calendar, in which the twelve months, corresponding to phases of the moon, comprised each lunar year. Specific festivals and rituals were associated with each month and their depiction became popular in secular Japanese painting from the 10th century through the Edo period.

Here, in the eleventh month, the beloved character Genji watches ladies-in-waiting participate in a traditional winter activity - the building of snow sculpture. Participants placed bets on how long it would take for the snow sculpture to melt.

Kunisada began his career as a book illustrator and influenced younger printmakers, including Hiroshige and Hokusai. The later artists became so prolific and popular that critics asserted their works were inferior. More recently, the later artists of the ukiyo-e have been re-evaluated and their reputations rehabilitated.

Men gathered together outside of an inn

From the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō
Andō Hiroshige, Japanese, (1796-1858) 
Ukiyo-e (Wood Block Print), 1833-34
Gift of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel 

From the 12th – 19th centuries in Japan, daimyos, powerful lords, presided over large regions and frequently warred with each other for more territory and even greater power. To help curb the violence and inspire loyalty, the Tokugawa Shogun instituted an edict, the Sankin Kōtai, in 1635. This policy required that each daimyo spend a certain amount of time each year living in the capital, Edo.  As a daimyo journeyed to Edo for his required residency in the city, he was escorted by an elaborate procession.  In this print, Andō Hiroshige has depicted members of a daimyo’s entourage as they prepare to leave an inn along the Tōkaidō at dawn.