Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel
View of Wilhelmshöhe palace, aerial photograph
The Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel (formerly Staatliche Museen Kassel) has a 600 year old tradition of collecting, keeping and creating. The collecting passion of the landgraves and electors amassed numerous outstanding art treasures over the centuries, which were preserved at their historic location. The strong sense for presentation is expressed in the historic palace and garden compositions (palace and mountain park of Wilhelmshöhe, Karlsaue with orangerie, palace and Whilhelmsthal park), which are looked after by the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel since 2006, in addition to the art collections.
The landgraves and later electors of Hessen Kassel had various interests such as the study of astronomy and single handcrafts. They brought the most important european artists, mathematicians and architects to the court of Kassel, they occupied themselves with antiquities as well as temporary arts, they amassed treasures and collected both for national interest and for their private joy, and they re-arranged and categorized the collections of their antecessors again and again.
This is a quote of how the museum presents itself.
In order to show the art treasures of the museum to the public, an exhibition took place from July 1 until September 23 of 1990 with the title “Porcelain from China and Japan”. In addition to the exhibition a catalogue book with the same title was published, a kind of inventory catalogue. (Publisher: Ulrich Schmidt, Staatliche Kunstsammlung Kassel)
A pair of pots, China, second quarter of the 18th century. Famille rose on-glaze in the colours pink, green, blue, aubergine, red, gold, brown and black. Height: 24 cm
Picture frame of the right pot
Picture frame of the left pot
This beautiful book is an enrichment for every enthusiast of Chinese and Japanese porcelain art. For me as a bonsai potter in search of old Chinese plant containers it is highly interesting that in this voluminous work (588 pages) only three pots are found which would be suited for planting. This suggests that in those times nearly no plant containers were exported to Europe. Tableware, vases and decorative plates were the things most sought after.
Plant container, China, second quarter of the 18th century, on-glaze colours in pink, green, blue, yellow, aubergine, brown and gold. Height: 24 cm
If you want to learn something about old bonsai pots (especially about old porcelain pots) you will seek without avail in the western literature. In the dozens of books about porcelain, from the lavishly illustrated book to the paperback, as good as nothing can be found about plant containers, penjing or bonsai pots. Plant containers seem not to have been in demand and were therefore not imported.
Only the collections of a few bonsai enthusiasts remain for study and they are as rare as white ravens. For me as a potter it is however essential to go back to the roots of the subject that fills my life to a great extent, the making of bonsai pots. Kun-tsan, a famous zen-master, said: “To understand the nature of painting you have to climb mountains and follow the rivers back to their origins, only then you can create your ideas.”
The richness of motives on Chinese pots derive from religion and popular belief. The real as well as the imagined world express themselves in signs and symbols, it is positive and sensual. Happiness, wealth and professional success were the good wishes to the owner of a pot decorated with these symbols. The illustration of the seasons, plants and animals are a tribute to nature.
My special thanks to Mrs. Anja Schaluschke, who made this article possible.
Photographs and text extract with kind permisison of the “museumslandschaft hessen kassel”.
Translation: Heike van Gunst