The narrative of the Olive Boat Essay

The narrative of the Olive Boat Essay

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One object in the Palace Museum in Taipei classified as a “curio,” is a small light brown oblong object that upon closer inspection is a detailed boat complete with cargo and a crew carved from an olive stone. This boat provides insight into the interaction between artist and view as well as demonstrating some traits typical of Chinese art. First, the object itself provides a narrative of Chinese boast and offers insight into how this object was meant to be viewed. Second, the material of the object is unusual and suggests the skill and intellect of the artist as well as mirroring traditional Chinese thought about material. Third, object itself and the material combine to evoke emotion in the viewer, create the attraction of the object and establish it place in a collection.
At first, the eye is drawn to the top and middle of the boat where bulk of the action is going on. On the left side of the boat towards the front, there are beams that separate the top of the boat from the body of the boat. Through these beams, the viewer can see a man at the tiller. He seems to have a jovial expression while he steers. Also, he is facing a man sitting near the beams. That man is facing towards the man at the tiller with his arm gesturing towards him indicating that they are in conversation with each other. Then in the center of the left hand side of the boat, there are lattice windows. The lattice windows open up to revel another man sitting behind them. This man has a serene expression on his face. At the back of the boat there seems to be a something in bags and cylindrical containers possibly supplies or cargo. The middle of the boat holds the action and the story. On the bottom of the boat, there are small delicate inscriptions in Chine...

... middle of paper ...

...ject Landscapes.”
The small boat carved from an olive stone pulls the viewer in with its narrative, its use of material and its enigmatic purpose and classification. The artisanship and thought behind this art object make it unique in the palace collection.

Works Cited

Class Notes

Hay, Jonathan, “Object Landscapes,” in Sensuous Surfaces (London: Reaktion, 2009), 309-340

Hay, Jonathan, “The Surfacescape’s Resources,” Sensuous Surfaces (London: Reaktion, 2009).

Holzwarth, Gerald, “The Qianlong Emperor as Art Patron and the Formation of the Collections of the Palace Museum, Beijing,” in China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795 (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005), 41-53.

Yu, P'ei-chin. "Curios." National Palace Museum-Collection > Selections > > Carved Olive-stone Boat. (accessed March 27, 2014).

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