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Asian Art

The Gallery’s collection of Asian art comprises nearly 8,000 works from East Asia, South Asia, continental Southeast Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and spans the Neolithic period to the 21st century. Highlights of the collection include Chinese ceramics and paintings, Japanese paintings and prints, and Indian and Persian textiles and miniature paintings.
Jina Rishabhanatha
Serving Vessel (Gui)
Deep Bowl (Fukabachi)
Ink Plum
Kanazawa in Moonlight (Buyo Kanazawa Hassho Yakei)
Bowl depicting Faridun, Kava, and Zahhak in an episode from Firdawsi’s Shahnameh

About Asian Art

The Department of Asian Art’s Chinese and Japanese collections were built initially through the gifts and bequest of Mrs. William H. Moore between 1937 and 1960. The greatest strengths of the Chinese holdings are ceramics and paintings, including a group of vessels from the Changsha region of Hunan Province, from around 500 B.C.E. to 1000 C.E., assembled for the most part by John Hadley Cox, B.A. 1935. Chinese paintings range from the Tang dynasty (618–907 C.E.) through the 20th century, with particular strengths in the 17th century and in the modern and contemporary period.

The Japanese collection has important concentrations in the arts of the Edo period (1615–1868). Approximately 1,200 prints, the majority of which are ukiyo-e prints of the 18th and 19th centuries, demonstrate the breadth of this medium, and recent additions have included a group of 20th-century prints. Several important screens and hanging scrolls of the 14th through 18th century highlight the department’s holdings of Japanese painting and calligraphy, while Japanese textiles are represented by fragments from the Shōsōin repository in Nara, Noh robes, kimonos, and a collection of Buddhist priests’ robes. Japanese ceramics, a growing area of the collection, span from the Neolithic period to the presend day, with important recent additions of contemporary ceramic sculpture.

The South Asian and Islamic collections, again founded by the gifts of Mrs. Moore, are represented by an excellent group of textiles, ceramics, miniature paintings, and manuscript pages. Gifts of over 80 Persian and Indian miniature paintings, and others of Indian sculpture, have greatly augmented the holdings of Iranian and Indian art.

Note from the Curator

The Department of Asian Art welcomes back visitors with the second of a two-part display celebrating a spectacular gift of over 200 surimono woodblock prints from Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970. This iteration highlights flora and fauna from the natural world as well as objects from daily life. Produced in Japan between 1800 and 1840, primarily for the New Year, and by masters such as Hokusai, surimono were commissioned by poetry circles, Kabuki enthusiasts, and leading connoisseurs. The beautifully made prints combine playful poetry with striking images in endlessly engaging and imaginative compositions. A catalogue of this collection by Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art, and Adam Haliburton, a doctoral candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, is available.

Also on view are some of the most important Chinese paintings in the collection, including two famous 11th-century portraits in the series “Five Old Men of Suiyang,” an ink rendering of a plum branch by the 14th-century master Wang Mian, and another of the same theme by Jin Nong from the 18th century. A painting of a European hunter, recently attributed to the late 16th-century artist Shankar, and another of an adorable tiger by Sheikh Taju from the late 18th century are part of a separate installation that explores the roles of the hunt and the feast in South and West Asia. These works are shown with textiles, some featuring hunting scenes and others complex geometric designs.

Due to their sensitivity to light and climate, the paintings and textiles displayed on the west side of the museum’s second-floor Asian galleries change roughly every six months. We use these rotations as an opportunity to explore our collection from multiple perspectives. The galleries on the east side, naturally illuminated by floor-to-ceiling windows, showcase less fragile but equally wonderful objects from Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Thailand, and Tibet.

Denise Patry Leidy
The Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art

Yashima Gakutei, White Cat Reflected in a Lacquer Dresser, probably 1830. Polychrome woodblock print with brass and gauffrage; shikishi-ban. Yale University Art Gallery, Promised gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

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Meet the Curators

Denise Patry Leidy

Denise Patry Leidy, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art, received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Prior to joining the Gallery, she served as the Brooke Russell Astor Curator of Chinese Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as curator at the Asia Society and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Denise has curated exhibitions such as Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection (2016), Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom (2013), Red and Black: Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to the 16th Century (2012), and Hidden Treasure of Afghanistan (2009). Her publications include How to Read Chinese Ceramics (2015), Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010), The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning (2009), Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer (2006), and Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society’s Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Collection (1994).


Download Denise Patry Leidy’s CV
Denise Patry Leidy

Sadako Ohki

Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art, received her master’s and doctoral degrees in History of Art from the University of Michigan. Ohki wrote her doctoral thesis on Ike Taiga’s calligraphy, reflecting a lifelong interest in calligraphy and ink art. She contributed an essay on Taiga to Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2007); on British abstract artist Rebecca Salter and her interest in Japan to Rebecca Salter: Into the Light of Things (Yale Center for British Art, 2011); and on Konoe Nobutada to the magazine Orientations (2012). Her exhibitions at the Gallery include Tea Culture of Japan: “Chanoyu” Past and Present (2009), which was accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, and, most recently, the three-part exhibition Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens (2014).


PDF icon Download Sadako Ohki's CV

Sadako Ohki

Further Reading

The Edo Culture in Japanese Prints. With an introduction by George J. Lee. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.

Lee, George J. Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1970.

Neill, Mary Gardner. The Communion of Scholars: Chinese Art at Yale. New York: China Institute in America, 1982.

Ohki, Sadako. Tea Culture of Japan, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.

Ohki, Sadako. Twentieth-Century Japanese Ceramics at the Yale University Art Gallery: The Collections of Molly and Walter Bareiss. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001.

Ohki, Sadako, ed. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Japanese Art at Yale (2007).

Sensabaugh, David Ake. The Scholar as Collector: Chinese Art at Yale. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2004.

Staples, Loretta N. A Sense of Pattern: Textile Masterworks from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1981.