Lidded ritual wine ewer in the form of a bird” from the 5th century BCE (about 2500 years ago) Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, China (All images from the Google Art Project/On display at Freer/Sackler, The Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art)
I returned this morning to my favorite watering hole on the net—the Google Art Project. As always, it continues with its unceasing marvels.
“Hafted axe with dragons” from the 13th century BCE (about 3300 years ago) from Henan province, Anyang in China
Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi as the Goddess Parvati, 1oth century (about 1100 years ago) bronze from the Chola Dynasty
I have chosen three pieces of breathtaking art—a “Hafted axe with dragons” from the 13th century BCE (about 3300 years ago) from Henan province, Anyang in China, a “Lidded ritual wine ewer in the form of a bird” from the 5th century BCE (about 2500 years ago) also from China and a “Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi as the Goddess Parvati” from the 1oth century CE (about 1100 years ago) from the Chola dynasty in India.
To view an ancient Chinese axe or an ewer or an Indian bronze in such fine detail sitting in a basement in Naperville is to unconsciously pay tribute to an extraordinary convergence of ancient craftsmanship and layers of complex modern technologies. Would the unknown creators of these three pieces have ever conceived that after such a long passage of time not only would their works survive but even preserved and viewed with such delight?
Off the cuff, I can think of several technologies that went into creating and preserving and exhibiting these pieces. First is mining the metals, mostly bronze, that went into it. Then came the metallurgical expertise to forge an alloy that would withstand millennial vagaries. Then the sheer crafting of the objects, two of which the axe and the ewer had specific daily uses. One can jump to the way these were found by archeologists and the amount of technology needed to accomplish that. Add to that their transportation which most likely meant flying them from China and India to the United States. I am skipping several steps but one can conclude by adding to the mix the Google Art Project, broadband connectivity and Ethernet cable. I am not even going to mention electricity. It took all of these mindboggling technological breakthroughs for me to be able to find out about these objects’ existence and write about them.
The details in these objects are astonishing and the Google Art Project’s high resolution images and zooming options make it possible to experience them. While both the axe and ewer represent the finest craftsmanship of their kind, I am particularly struck by Queen Sembiyan’s absolutely enchanting female form. Look at the various features below and tell me if you would not be thunderstruck if such a woman came and stood in front of you. The voyeurism here is inescapable.