About the collections
The Chinese Collection
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.
Terrakotta-gravfigurer, trolig Tang (618-907) / . Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode
Ring, 1500-tallet, nephrite jade. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode
Weito, Vokter av den buddhistiske lære, Ming (1368-1644), bronse. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode
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.
Porselensskål med dragemotiv, datert 1887. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode
Skål med rennende glasur, muligens Song (960-1276). Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode
Skål, 1700-tallet, krystall. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode
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.
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.
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.