Middlebury College Museum of Art


Lost Luxuries: Ancient Chinese Gold

January 24–April 19, 2020

About 2,500 years ago, Chinese craftsmen started experimenting with goldsmithing, combining foreign techniques with their own local imagery and styles. In the centuries that followed, gold ornaments and vessels became potent communicators of economic status, official rank, gender norms, religious affiliation, and group identity. In the early twentieth century, art collectors across the globe recognized their beauty and historical importance and went to great lengths to obtain them.

Xianbei plaque, Northeast China, Western Jin dynasty
Xianbei plaque, Northeast China, probably Western Jin dynasty (265–316 CE), gold, width: 2 7/8 inches, 41.6 grams. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art, purchase with funds provided by the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Fund, 2019.

This exhibition explores the artistry and social meanings of Chinese gold objects produced between the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) and Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), as well as the more recent story of how they entered American museum collections. The ancient artifacts are accompanied by innovative digital features that bring to life recent excavations, traditional goldsmithing techniques, and the lives of the diverse artisans who created them.

Related Events

Wednesday, February 19

Lost Luxuries: Ancient Chinese Gold

Lecture and Opening Reception
Time: 4:30pm
Location: Mahaney Arts Center, Room 125 and Lower Lobby

Sarah Laursen, Curator of Asian Art