|I certainly do not claim to be an expert; I am just struggling to understand -like everyone else.|
|Re: Warring States Beads -- floorkasp||Post Reply||Edit||Forum||Where am I?|
ALSO, I AM OFFERING MY OPINION AS A COLLECTOR, NOT A SCHOLAR, BECAUSE I HAVE HANDLED HUNDREDS OF SPECIMEN'S WHILE SHOPPING IN BEIJING. AND THIS TOPIC HAS BEEN OF CONCERN TO ME FOR MANY YEARS:
Hi Fred, hi everyone,
HI WILL, HI EVERYONE,
I agree completely with Fred. THANK YOU FOR BEGINNING BY SAYING YOU ARE "AGREEING COMPLETELY WITH ME!" BUT I ALSO SEE YOU ARE AGREEING TO DISAGREE... It’s natural to disagree about ancient beads and these disagreements help us to figure out the reasoning that underlies our own spontaneous judgements. So when I saw Fred’s notes on Kika’s photograph, I thought, “I need to think about this some more.” I HAVE ALSO FOUND SIMON KWAN'S BOOK, FROM 2001, ON MY SHELVES TITLED "EARLY CHINESE GLASS." THIS BOOK HAS BEEN CAREFULLY STORED AWAY FOR NEARLY FIFTEEN YEARS AND I AM THRILLED TO FIND GOOD USE FOR IT TODAY. I didn’t have time till this afternoon when I sat down again with Kwan’s book on Ancient Chinese Glass and went through the pictures of more than a hundred eye beads in some detail. Here, for now, are my conclusions. I’ll take each of Fred’s points and note my responses. ACTUALLY THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT EIGHT TUBULAR EYE BEADS PICTURED. THERE ARE MANY EYE BEADS. BUT OVERALL, THIS PROVIDES A LARGE ENOUGH PERSPECTIVE ON SOME OF THE ISSUES AT HAND. AND CURIOUSLY, IN BEIJING'S CURIO CITY, THERE HAVE BEEN DOZENS FOR SALE ON ANY GIVEN DAY, WHEN I HAVE SHOPPED THERE.
1. “Overall surface texture much too even.” In fact, among Kwan’s glass beads a matte even surface is the norm. I NEED TO CLARIFY: I AM REFERRING TO THE POWDER LIKE, CHALKY WHITE SURFACE FILM ON KIKA'S RED, WHITE AND BLACK TUBE, WHICH NONE OF THE OTHER BEADS SHOW. AND REVIEWING EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK, I CAN SEE MORE VARIETY IN SURFACE TEXTURE THAN KIKA'S RED, WHITE AND BLACK EXAMPLE…ALTHOUGH, SOMETIMES, EVER SO SLIGHT. Of all the glass eye beads 31 out of 42 have a surface that is flat and even rather than shiny. THIS IS A SUBJECTIVE CALL. AGAIN, I SEE MORE VARIETY IN SURFACE TEXTURE IN KWAN THAN YOU DO. I didn’t count the few that were damaged. This surprised me because I think of these beads essentially as being bright, as they obviously once were, but actually one of the consistent signs of age is the kind of surface that Fred complains about. Most of the pottery-cored eye beads are similar, and so are almost all the non-bead eye artefacts (plaques, inlays, etc). LOOKING AT THE BOOK AS A WHOLE, THE MAJORITY OF GLASS PIECES HAVE THE INCONSISTENT SIGNS OF AGE WHICH ORDINARILY MAKE UP THE PATINA WE HAVE GROWN TO EXPECT IN ANTIQUITY. YOU CAN USE SOME OF THE EXAMPLES FROM KWAN'S BOOK TO SUPPORT YOUR THEORY. BUT I CAN USE MANY MORE EXAMPLES TO SUPPORT MY THEORY. I REPEAT: THE MOST OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE IS THE POWDERY FILM ON KIKA'S BEAD.
2. “Thin application of decoration.” Fred is partially right here as far as the white bands are concerned. The white has retained its form less than in most beads in Kwan’s collection, but the difference may possibly be explained by varying soil conditions. THIS CAN BE EXPLAINED WHEN USING HYDROFLUORIC ACID TO CREATE A FALSE PATINA. WHITE IS THE FIRST COLOR TO DEVITRIFY. Still, it’s definitely worth noting. This is the only one of Fred’s points that I would go along with wholeheartedly. THANK YOU FOR GOING ALONG WITH THIS POINT WHOLEHEARTEDLY.
EACH POINT NEEDS TO BE WEIGHED DIFFERENTLY. MY ART SENSE LEADS ME TO PLACE MUCH IMPORTANCE ON THE THICKNESS OF DECORATION: THIS REVEALS THE ARTIST'S INTENT AND SKILL IN APPLICATION: THE REASON THAT WARRING STATES BEADS HAVE BEEN SO HIGHLY REGARDED IS EXPLAINED IN A PICTURE IN ONE OF FLOOR'S POSTS ABOVE: "WITH THEIR NEAT AND RIGOROUS FORM OF DECORATIVE DESIGNS, CLASSIC MATERIAL COLORS, THEY ARE SEEN AS THE PINNACLE OF THE WORLD'S ANCIENT DRAGONFLY EYE GLASS BEADS." MY PERSONAL ARTISTIC SENSIBILITY MAKES ME FEEL THAT KIKA'S RED, WHITE AND BLACK BEAD IS CARELESS BY COMPARISON WITH MOST CLEARLY IDENTIFIABLE WARRING STATES ERA BEADS.
3. “Dots should be uniform and filling drilled holes.” In fact, this is quite incorrect. EXPERTS DISAGREE AS TO HOW THESE BEADS WERE CONSTRUCTED. THE WAY THAT I RECENTLY HEARD IT FROM JAMEY ALLEN AND YEARS AGO FROM SPECIALISTS IN BEIJING, IS THAT EXAMPLES WHICH BEST ILLUSTRATE EXCELLENCE IN DESIGN HAVE HAD SHALLOW CAVITIES DRILLED IN ORDER TO CAREFULLY DISTRIBUTE THE DOTS. KIKA'S BEAD SEEMS SLOPPY USING KWAN'S COLLECTION FOR COMPARISON. KWAN'S BOOK SHOWS A VARIETY OF TECHNIQUES IN THIS REGARD. AND MY EYES GRAVITATE TOWARD PERFECTION, WHICH I FEEL BEST ILLUSTRATES THE REASON FOR THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WARRING STATES BEAD. First of all the holes are not “drilled”; they are of course created by the drops of glass as they are applied to the core cylinder. And they are seldom uniform in size, presumably because of the difficulty in controlling exactly the quantity of glass. In Kwan’s book only 6 out of 21 beads with this kind of decoration have dots that could be described as being more or less uniform; all the others vary widely in size. WE CAN ONLY ASSUME THAT EVEN SIMON KWAN REALIZES THE NEED FOR FURTHER STUDY BY INCLUDING CHEMICAL ANALYSIS FOR THE PIECES ILLUSTRATED IN HIS BOOK. IN MY EXPERIENCE, WHEN STUDYING CONNOISSEUR COLLECTIONS THERE ARE ALWAYS MISTAKEN IDENTITIES; I WOULD SUSPECT THAT SIMON KWAN'S BOOK IS NO EXCEPTION. I’ll attach a photo of a bead that has lost its dots (as most do) that is in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It’s a bead I’ve been able to examine closely; it was added to the collection in the early twentieth century. As you can see there’s no uniformity in these holes, andthey certainly weren’t drilled. I AM NOT SAYING THEY WERE ALL DRILLED. BUT IT APPEARS TO ME THAT SOME OF THE BEST ONES MAY HAVE BEEN DRILLED.
4. “Patina lacking in recessed areas.” This is a subjective judgement. To my eye, these areas where the glass decoration has worn away look exactly as they should. I have several of the pottery-cored glass eye beads and the areas of wear look exactly like this. THANK YOU FOR ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THIS IS SUBJECTIVE JUDGEMENT. PERSONALLY, I SEE NO EXPLANATION FOR THE RECESSED AREAS TO HAVE THE SAME SURFACE TEXTURE AS THE TOP OF THE BEAD. ESPECIALLY SINCE THE INTERIOR OF THE BEAD APERTURE IS STAINED. TO ME, IT IS AS THOUGH A COPYIST NEGLECTED TO COMPLETE THE JOB.
5. “These (central) lines should be perfectly centred.” No, they shouldn’t, and they’re not in most (70%) of the beads that have these central bands in Kwan’s book. These beads are very carefully made, but their geometry is not perfect - nor need it be. HERE AGAIN, WE DISAGREE. BY COMPARISON WITH THE EXAMPLES IN KWAN'S BOOK AND THE SHANGHAI EXHIBIT, THE EQUATORIAL LINES ON KIKA'S BEAD ARE VERY OFF CENTER. ALTHOUGH I AGREE THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE PERFECTION IN ANY OF KWAN'S EXAMPLES. PERHAPS THE WORD "PERFECTION" IS A WORD I SHOULD NOT BE USING FOR WARRING STATES BEADS. BUT BY COMPARISON, I SEE AN EXTREME DISPARITY BETWEEN KIKA'S AND KWAN'S EXAMPLES -AS WELL AS FLOOR'S EXAMPLES FROM THE SHANGHAI MUSEUM EXHIBIT.
6 “Peculiar white, red and black combination (of colours).” Here again, Fred may be partially right. THIS IS THE DEAD GIVEAWAY. THERE IS NOT ONE EXAMPLE IN ANCIENT CHINESE GLASS THAT I AM AWARE OF WHICH SUPPORTS THIS PARTICULAR COLOR COMBINATION. A PERSON CAN MAKE A CASE FOR DISCOLORATION OVER TIME, BUT WHERE ARE SIMILAR EXAMPLES? This actual combination of colours is unusual, but each does occur frequently in Warring States beads. THIS PARTICULAR RED COLOR IN KIKA'S BEAD IS CONSISTENT WITH TODAY'S GLASS. NOT IN ANTIQUITY. However, I haven’t yet come across an example of these tubular beads that has the small dot decoration in this reddish brown colour; they are generally white on the glass beads, though the dots of the eyes on the pottery-cored beads are various colours - blue, brown or yellow. How to weight this in the overall picture is a matter of personal judgement. For some it may be decisive; for me, because I think the bead is authentic, it can easily be explained by beadmakers playing with the available resources and trying out new arrangements of the patterns - which obviously happened constantly in this period of intense experimentation.
Incidentally, I ought to point out that it’s quite difficult to know what the original colours of these Warring States beads sometimes were. I think the core tube was almost certainly a strong blue, but the red dots might have actually been a shade of purple that was common in monochrome glass at the time. I’ll attach an ear ornament of mine (slightly later, Han dynasty) that was accidentally broken; the dull weathered surface opened up to reveal a beautiful bright purple.
So there we have it, more kindling for the disagreement. Whatever the conclusion, it’s great to have a chance to talk about these wonderful beads.
All the best,
WHEN I SEE HOW EXPERTS CAREFULLY COUCH THEIR OPINIONS, I FEEL I HAVE MUCH TO LEARN IN THIS REGARD.
FURTHERMORE, WE DON'T COMPLETELY KNOW WHAT KWAN'S BOOK SAYS. DISCUSSIONS ARE WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CHINESE. ONLY THE TITLES OF BEADS ARE OFFERED IN ENGLISH. SCHOLARS DEDICATED TO THIS SUBJECT ARE REQUIRED TO DECIPHER COMPARATIVE EVIDENCE IN CHINESE. I AGREE THAT THIS IS ONLY MORE KINDLING FOR DISAGREEMENT. AND IT IS GREAT FOR ME TO HAVE BEEN FORCED TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT SIMON KWAN'S COLLECTION AND TALK ABOUT THESE BEADS. THIS SUBJECT IS BECOMING MORE PROBLEMATIC AS COPYISTS FULFILL INCREASING DEMAND IN CHINA. TYPICALLY THIS IS PART OF THE DRAMA WHEN SLEUTHING IN THE ANTIQUITIES MARKET.
WITH MUCH LOVE TO KIKA, WILL AND EVERYONE IN OUR LITTLE BEAD WORLD,
P.S. ORDINARILY, I WOULD HAVE USED A DIFFERENT COLOR AND UPPER AND LOWER CASE TEXT TO DISTINGUISH MY RESPONSE TO WILL.