Orientations is a bimonthly print magazine published in Hong Kong and distributed worldwide since 1969. It is an authoritative source of information on the many and varied aspects of the arts of East and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, from the latest scholarly research to market analysis and current news.
It is not often that the majestic Louvre Museum is associated with the arts of Asia. In a series of five articles, we learn that Asian art has had a presence in the museum since its founding in 1792 and that despite the reorganization of French national museums in 1945, when the Musée Guimet became the national museum of Asian arts and absorbed most of the collection in the Louvre, the latter still managed to retain a substantial body of Asian art scattered amongst different departments.
In one article, the author discusses how the Asian collection of Adolphe Thiers (1797–1877), first president of the French Third Republic, entered the museum and the treasures that it contains, including a Qianlong period (1736–95) porcelain vase with falangcai enamels. Another article is devoted to the Department of Islamic Art, which holds over 500 objects from Islamic India. The online exhibition entitled ‘Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints’ at the Royal Ontario Museum features a selection of forty-two prints known as namazu-e (lit. ‘catfish pictures’), an uncommon type of woodblock print produced in reaction to several earthquakes that struck Japan in the late Edo period (1603–1868), when common folk belief held that earthquakes were caused by giant catfish living underground.
We explore the history and socio-cultural meanings of namazu-e through a series of iconographical analyses of exhibition highlights. The Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–95) commissioned several monumental paintings to commemorate his victories in battle, which he later had engraved on copper plates in France. A red-ink drawing for one of the copperplates is in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna and seems to be one of the lost reduced drawings that were prepared and sent to France as models for the copper plates. The ‘Agusan Image’ is a figure of a seated woman with a naked torso wearing elaborate jewellery. Now in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, it was discovered in 1917 on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. We propose that it represents a mixture of different influences from Java and Sri Lanka to Tibet and China, with a dating from the 11th to 13th century.