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The Eastern Art collection cares for approximately 8,000 objects, most of which originate from ancient China and Japan. Much of the collection is displayed at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on the top floor in the Eastern Art Gallery (formerly the Schiller Gallery), which contains a stunning array of ceramics, carvings and glass.
The gallery was orginally named after the brothers Ferdinand and Max Schiller, whose personal collections were donated to the museum in 1946. Since then the collections have been further expanded.
The collections have been awarded Designated Status by the Goverment's Department of Culture, Media and Sport, recognition that they are of international importance and are considered to be some of the finest outside London!
On display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Front and rear hall
You can see evidence of East Asian and Islamic influence throughout the building. In the Front Hall two Chinese dragons frame the stairwell. They date from the 19th century and would originally have hung on the wall of a temple.
In the Rear Hall is a huge Chinese bell, dated 1738. This was brought back by a sailor in 1864 and given to Berkeley Castle, South Gloucestershire before coming to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
The imposing portrait of Rammohan Roy on the rear staircase celebrates the life of this great Indian reformer who died in Bristol in 1833.
Eastern Art Gallery, 2nd floor
These are the star exhibits of this collection with very high quality Chinese pieces dating, for example, from the 7th century through to the 13th century. Other pieces provide evidence of Bristol inhabitants' love of Chinese porcelain in the 18th century. In fact some of the pieces bear the names and addresses of local menders.
All kinds of colourful porcelain is on display including dazzling copper-red glazed wares and contrasting deep cobalt blue pieces. Some export wares were made to order for Bristol's Mayors and their families and were imported here over 200 years ago.
The collection of Chinese glass is considered to be one of the best outside Asia. 180 pieces from the 300-strong collection are on display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in a dedicated gallery which opened in 2006. Here you can see brightly coloured and intricately carved glass ranging from 2,000 year old beads to vessels made for the Chinese imperial household during the reign of the famous Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795).
The majority of the Chinese glass comes from the bequest of H R Burrows Abbey, given to the museum in 1950 by the National Art Collections Fund. Conservation of the glass, the new glass gallery and an online database were made possible by a generous grant from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
View an online version of the gallery displays and the Chinese glass database.
Works on paper and textiles
It is difficult to appreciate the full scope of the collections from the displays. There are many beautiful objects which can only be displayed in low light levels and so are not currently on display. For example Bristol has an outstanding collection of approximately 500 Japanese woodblock prints (mid 18th to early 19th centuries) including works by famous artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. The collection is particularly strong in the work of artists of the second half of the eighteenth century such as Shunsho, Harunobu and Koryusai.
The textile collection includes carpets, examples of Indian and Chinese embroidery and Middle Eastern textiles.
Textiles and works on paper may be viewed by appointment with the Collections Officer.
You can support the Eastern Art department by joining the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery.
Senior Collections Officer - Art (including Eastern, Applied and Fine Art)
Tel: 0117 922 3599