The Musée Cernuschi has one of the most important collections of early Chinese bronzes, and the oldest to have been exhibited in the West. Most of the pieces in this collection date from the Bronze Age (c. 16th-3rd centuries BC) and the Early Imperial period (Qin and Han, 3rd-2nd centuries BC). Excluded from the study are so-called late bronzes, the earliest of which date back to the Song period (960-1279). A catalog was published in 1977, but it was incomplete, and many pieces have since been acquired by the museum. Alain Thote has offered to draw up an exhaustive catalog of the archaic bronzes in this collection, in association with Olivier Venture for the study of the inscriptions, and with the museum’s curators.
The goal of this program is to systematically study the bronzes of all kinds owned by the museum (ritual vessels, weapons, ornaments, etc.) from every angle, starting with their authenticity, their style, the content of any inscriptions they may have, their date and, if possible, their place of production. The manufacturing process and the study of restorations carried out on the pieces are also addressed. Laboratory analysis is envisaged for some bronzes.
Over 130 pieces have been studied to date, by the end of 2023. Around thirty remain to be studied. In addition to this systematic work, members of the project have been involved in writing the catalog for an exhibition to be held in autumn 2023 at the Musée Cernuschi, focusing on the collections of the museum’s founder: Henri Cernuschi (1821-1896). The years 2024 to 2026 will be devoted to in-depth study of the objects (provenance, dating, manufacturing processes, possible restorations, laboratory analyses, etc.). Entries and overall presentation (history of the collection, presentation of manufacturing techniques and stylistic analysis, etc.) will be drawn up at the same time, followed by the editing of the catalog for publication in 2027.
Bronze Age China Chinese ritual vessels
(École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Mael Bellec (Cernuschi Museum)