The Palmer’s collection of ceramics is varied and impressive, encompassing both ancient and contemporary styles and both western and non-western traditions.
Ancient Peruvian Ceramics
As part of its impressive ceramics collection, the Palmer Museum of Art houses an extensive array of Peruvian pottery ranging from the early centuries B.C.E. up to the sixteenth century. The museum owns examples from all cultural areas of Peru, including the Inca, who achieved a level of political, social, and economic organization that greatly impressed Spanish explorers upon their arrival in the region. As with many ancient civilizations, Peruvian societies left no written records, making ceramics—which often depict mythical gods, heroic figures, and complex rituals, often revolving around the dead—vital to our understanding of their structure.
Ceramics are the strength of the museum’s collection of Asian art. Ranging in date from the third century B.C.E. to the nineteenth century, the collection includes representative pots, dishes, and sculpture made in China, Japan, Korea, and Cambodia. Also included in the Asian ceramic collection are cooking vessels, vases, and other utilitarian wares, as well as sculpture of Daoist immortals, all made for domestic use. Of exceptional historical interest are animal and figural sculptures excavated from tombs constructed in China during the Tang period (618–907).
The Palmer Museum houses an important collection of contemporary ceramics, which ranges from traditional vessels created by St. Ives potter Bernard Leach, Mashiko artist Shoji Hamada, and a host of Japanese mingei ceramists, to the more avant-garde creations by British pot makers Dame Lucy Rie and Hans Coper, and Danish ceramists Inger Thing, Alev Siesbye, and Richard Manz.