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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Fluted vase

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Fluted vase

1736 - 1795

This fluted yellow vase inscribed with the Qianlong emperor reign mark characterizes high-quality glassware of the imperial workshop in the Forbidden City during the 18th century.

Although glass was used in China as early as the Western Zhou period (ca. 1046-1771 B.C.), the technology developed slowly and intermittently. It was used primarily in accessories, e.g. beads or imitations of jades. As a medium, it was overshadowed by (and often imitated) porcelains: a 12th century glass dish from the Thomas D. Stimson Collection (47.152) is one such example. To some extent, this current piece was also inspired by a ceramic form (Song-dynasty vases of Ge/Guan ware), although the main catalyst for glass production in the Qing palace came from the Jesuits, who also served as artists and scientists in the court. It was through them that the Qing court re-discovered the beauty of glass. Octagonal, fluted glass vases featuring diverse colors were a common form. This type of vases was first made during the Yongzheng period (1723-35), and became popular - and thicker - during the Qianlong period, when this piece was made. According to the Archives of the Department of Imperial Household, this type of glass was given to high-ranking Tibetan monks. As such, their function extended beyond to serving as imperial playthings.

Robert Shields may have been known as “one of the Grand Old Men in Northwest architecture” (Pacific Northwest Magazine), but it is his enduring passion for art that leaves a lasting legacy at SAM. When Mr Shields passed away in the summer of 2012, he left his entire estate to the Seattle Art Museum, its value to be used in support of the Asian art program.

One of the foremost Northwest architects of the mid-20th century, Mr Shields graduated from the University of Washington with an architecture degree in 1941. After serving in the Navy in WWII, he returned to Seattle and founded the architecture firm Tucker, Shields and Terry in 1946. Over the course of the next 30 years he established a reputation as one of the foremost Northwest architects as he designed homes, commercial spaces, the KIRO-TV headquarters, and Canlis restaurant.

A champion of Northwest art and artists (he counted Zoe Dusanne, Don Foster, Morris Graves, and Kenneth Callahan among his friends), Mr Shields was also passionate about Asian and Native American art, as well as European decorative arts; and he collected in all of these areas. He was a member of the museum’s Asian Art Council, the Seattle Clay Club, and the Puget Sound Bonsai Society. In honor of the opening of SAM Downtown in 1991, he donated several Japanese objects and a Morris Graves painting to the collection.

6 × 2 1/8 in. (15.2 × 5.4cm)
Gift of the Estate of Robert M. Shields
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.