L’Envol du dragon — Art royal du Vietnam


Ceramic, sculpture

L’Envol du dragon
Art royal du Vietnam

Past: July 9 → September 15, 2014

As part of the France-Vietnam Year, the Musée national des arts asiatiques ― Guimet organise with the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi and the support of the Institut français an exhibition of works representing the dragon, which will include important loans.

In Vietnam the dragon occupies a special position within an imaginary bestiary. This fascinating chimera provides a lively representation of its role as kindly protector; for centuries, Vietnamese artists have represented the meanders of its silhouette. Shaped like a snake, the dragon belongs to an aquatic world where it is both guardian and provider. Able to influence drought and flooding, it is equally at ease in a subterranean milieu, in water and in the skies.

Focusing on images of the dragon, the exhibition covers a thousand years of history, from the Bronze Age to the twilight years of the last royal dynasty, through a new selection of works from the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi and the Musée national des arts asiatiques ― Guimet. The presentation leads the visitor through the developments of an iconography that was frequently associated with royalty and its prestige.

Musee guimet lenvol du dragon art royal du vietnam brule parfum medium
Brûle-parfum, Époque Lê, 1736 Musée national d’Histoire du Vietnam, Hanoi — Photo © Thierry Ollivier

The exhibition includes a number of exceptional works being shown to both French and Vietnamese publics for the first time. These include some of the most precious regalia of the Annam Empire : imperial seals and decrees in gold and silver.

The chronological presentation introduces the visitor to the earliest years of the Bronze Age. Historical scenes on drums and ritual bowls from this period show a fantastic and original bestiary in which the dragon has not yet entirely found its place. The Chinese domination of the Han era (circa 1st-3rd centuries) then illustrates the emergence of representations of the dragon on the splendid funerary furniture found in Vietnamese tombs (in the province of Thanh Hoa), during excavations conducted in the 1920s by the French School of the Far East under the archeologists Louis Pajot and Olov Janse.

It is in the period following the country’s regained independence (10th century) that Vietnamese art includes the greatest variety of images of the dragon present on items of architectural decoration, ceramic masterpieces or sumptuous objects in bronze (11th-18th centuries). These works testify to the inventive powers of a country which although impregnated with Chinese culture equally demonstrated striking originality.

The exhibition also includes a reconstitution of a Buddhist sanctuary with images of dragons among its rich iconography, alongside items of ritual furniture and objects of religious art arranged in an evocative manner.

Finally, an exceptional series of masterpieces shown here for the first time illustrate the splendour of the Nguyên dynasty, in Hué, from its founding to the abdication of the last emperor, Bao Dai, on the 25th of August 1945.

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Opening hours

Every day except Tuesday, 10 AM – 6 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €7,50€ — 8 — Concessions €5,50€ — 6

Free admission to exhibitions for young people under 18 years