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About the collections

The Chinese Collection

En detalj fra en kinesisk tekstil, som viser et broderi av en drage, mot en gul-oransje bakgrunn.

Fragment av keisergul, rituell fane. Broderi på silke. Siste del av Quing-dynastiet (1644-1911). Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Kode is home to Norway’s largest collection of Chinese art and handicraft. The collection counts approximately 4000 objects.

The collection contains all types of Chinese art and spans a period from the Neolithic age to the early 20th century.

Previously, the Chinese collection has been on display at Permanenten, but renovation of the building has made it inaccessible to the public for the last years.

In the following, we we mainly focus on the collection after General Johan Munthe.

To kinesiske figurer av terrakotta, som er delvis avfargede

Terrakotta-gravfigurer, trolig Tang (618-907) / . Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

En ring av jade, i en gulbrun farge.

Ring, 1500-tallet, nephrite jade. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

En buddhistisk skulptur i bronse

Weito, Vokter av den buddhistiske lære, Ming (1368-1644), bronse. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

En hodeskulptur, som viser et sint ansikt, laget av jern.

Hodeskulptur, usikker datering, trolig Tang (618-907), jern. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

The collection from general Munthe

2250 of the objects in the Chinese Collection was donated by Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe (1864—1935) from Bergen.

The collection that Munthe shipped to Bergen consists of totally 780 paintings, 270 album leaves, books and paintings for fans and sunshades, 100 sculptures chiselled out of stone types such as marble, sandstone and limestone and sculptures cast in bronze and clay.

In addition, there are objects made of metal, porcelain and jade, and lacquerware and textiles, and this group holds 1670 objects. The metal objects are made of bronze, gold and silver.

En skål av porselen sett ovenfra, med et fargerikt motiv av en drage

Porselensskål med dragemotiv, datert 1887. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

En blå skål med rennende glasur

Skål med rennende glasur, muligens Song (960-1276). Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

En kinesisk skål av krystall, med små figurer langs kanten

Skål, 1700-tallet, krystall. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Et kinesisk maleri som viser blå og røde blomster mot en stor stein

Xu Min: Stokkroser (høst), vindel, Taihustein, Qing (1644-1911), blekk og farge på silke. Foto: Hiromitsu Ogawa

Et kinesisk maleri av en fisk, omgitt av alger

Zhang Yuan: Alger og fisker, sørlige Song (1127-1279), blekk og farge på silke. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Et kinesisk maleri av en fisk, omgitt av alger

Zhang Yuan: Alger og fisker, sørlige Song (1127-1279), blekk og farge på silke. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Sort-hvitt foto av general Munthe, som står i et rom i hjemmet sitt i Beijing, omgitt av kinesiske gjenstander og møbler

Johan Munthe i sitt hjem i Beijing, trolig 1913. Foto: privat.

General Munthe

Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe studied at the Cavalry Cadet School in Kristiania in 1884 and as a young man travelled to China in 1886. There, he was employed by the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, and he eventually became a general under Yuan Shikai, the man who led the revolt against the Chinese dynasty and in 1911 became China’s first president.

After having lived in China for some time, he developed an interest in art and art collecting. Over time, he amassed a substantial collection of Chinese art. Munthe’s collection was mainly created in the decades before and after the 1911 revolution, and it consists of every type of Chinese art objects.

After a visit to Bergen in 1907 and a conversation with the director of West Norway Museum of Decorative Art Johan Bøgh, Munthe decided to donate his Chinese art collection to the museum. That same year the first crate of art arrived in the city. Munthe continued to ship large crates of art and objects to the museum right up to his death in 1935.

Dear director Bøgh, I am just now packing the last shipments and hope to get the things underway before December 1st. The collection has grown larger than originally intended. First and foremost, I wish to make it as representative as possible.

Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe

Columns and sculptures

In the years 1961 to 1964, the museum received 276 additional objects Munthe had collected. These he had attempted to sell to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1926. When these could not be procured by the museum, they were sent on to the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art.

In this shipment arrived among other things twenty marble plinths from the imperial summer palace Yuanmingyuan, the Garden of Perfect Brightness outside Beijing.

Originally, these plinths were stationary architectural elements in the summer palace, commissioned by emperor Qianlong, designed by court painter Castiglione and constructed in collaboration with advisor to the emperor Benoist.

The summer palace was destroyed during the Second Opium War by the Western Powers France and England. The plinths were eventually sold on the on the open market.

En gruppe søyler i marmor

Marmorsøyler fra det gamle sommerpalasset, Yuan Ming Yaun. Arkitekter: kunstner Guiseppe Castilione (1688-1766) og ingeniør Michel Benoist (1715-1774), fra ca. 1850-tallet. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

The most impressive sculptures Munthe obtained was a group of large, white marble figures whereof eleven can be found in the Kode collection.

The group of figures were presumably made in different periods of time at or by the same place in the Hebei province.

En gruppe skulpturer i marmor, i en tidligere presentasjon av Kinasamlingen

Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

A highlight of the collection is the group of Buddhist marble sculptures. The quality of the sculptures is disputed and there is no consensus as to their origin and dating. This uncertainty is stimulating to researchers and there is a great interest in the sculptures in the international research environments. The paintings collection also contains several highlights within their genre. The collection attracts researchers from abroad and is a great source for knowledge development and new discoveries. We are pleased to be able to present new, international research within the field, written by the world’s foremost experts on Chinese art.”

Jorunn Haakestad, previous conservator for Kode