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Exotic Objets d’Art: Chinese Amber and Ivory Carvings

April 27, 2001 - April 27, 2001

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is extremely fortunate to have been gifted a large and impres-sive collection of Chinese amber and ivory carvings from the late Francis and Kay Reif of Vancouver that are among the finest in the world. With the addi-tion of ivory carvings from other donations, this exhibition will display approximately 150 carvings of this remarkable and exotic material.

The Chinese were probably the first civilization to work ivory and they rank the material second only to jade. A precious commodity for carving since Neolithic times, ivory did not reach its greatest flowering until the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Although the Chinese had some local sources of amber, most of this fossilized tree resin was imported from Burma and later from Europe via the Silk Road. Early Chinese pieces are usually of beads or amulets but by the Qing dynasty large pieces of amber were being carved into decorative objects like vases, figurative sculptures and fruit.

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