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One of the finest collections of Chinese craftsmanship in the UK at Weston Park Museum
Seal paste box, 1700s. Photo © Museums Sheffield.

SHEFFIELD.- Discover a spellbinding world of myth and legend at Weston Park Museum this spring as some of the UK’s finest examples of Chinese craftsmanship have gone on show in a major new exhibition. Stories from the East: The Grice Ivories includes over 100 works from the city’s collection of historic Chinese ivories and explore the folk tales, figures and traditions that inspired them.

The Grice Collection of Chinese Ivories comprises over 150 antique carved pieces dating from the 16th century through to the early 1900s. The collection was originally amassed by Dr John Grice when working in China and was purchased for the City of Sheffield in the 1930s by local benefactor J G Graves, going on show at the Graves Gallery. Graves envisioned the ivories as an educational resource for the many ivory carvers who worked in Sheffield’s metalwork trades, hoping they would find inspiration in the remarkable craftsmanship on display.

Made mostly during the 1700s and 1800s, carved ivories were often created as decorative pieces for European collectors. Sheffield’s Grice Collection features some of the finest examples of the craft, from religious, historical and mythological figures to ornate calligraphy brush pots and decorative plaques, each demonstrating the immense skill of the artists who made them.

Sheffield’s collection is one of only two important and internationally renowned collections of historical Chinese ivories in the UK, and the only one in a public museum. Stories from the East represents the largest display of the Grice ivories in over 15 years and will explore the wealth of Chinese history, culture and the diverse spiritual beliefs reflected in the collection.

Visitors can discover many of the stories behind the works on display, from Daoist Immortals in their Heavenly Paradise to the heroic military deeds of General Yue Fei, as well as learning more about the history of the ivory trade in Sheffield and a look at the global effect of the ivory trade today. The exhibition also looks at contemporary makers working in other materials who continue to find inspiration in the Grice Collection.

Clare Starkie, Curator of Decorative Art said: “Thanks to the generosity of JG Graves, Sheffield is home to one of the UK’s finest historic collections of Chinese craftsmanship. This is the largest exhibition of the collection in almost two decades and we’re delighted to be able to share it with visitors to Weston Park Museum”.

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