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The centre collection is visible in the Museum’s storages on the ground floor and can be visited by the public on appointment. The displays have been arranged according to geographical and chronological criteria and the provenance of the works: West and Central Africa, the Middle East and Far East, South America and Central America, Southeast Asia, and lastly, Oceania. The earliest works bequeathed to the Museum come from a number of Milan’s state institutions such as the Brera Archaeological Museum, the Municipal Art Museum and the Museum of Natural History, while more recently, as the project for the Museum of Cultures became a reality, works have been acquired from or bequeathed by private parties. The works in the municipal art collections comprise over 7,000 objects that span three millennia, from 1500 A.D. to the twentieth century.
The Pre-Columbian and American Indian Collection: 1,627 items
The African collection: 1,162 items
The Alessandro Passaré Collection of African and Oceanic works of art: 448 items
The Franco Monti Collection of African works: 33 items
The Islamic art collection: 436 items
The Chinese collection : 1,028 items
The Japanese Collection:1,574 items
The Southeast Asian Collection: 285 items
The Mariangela Fardella and Giorgio Azzaroli collection of Asmat art: 26 items
The hats and fans collection: 124 works
The ethnographic collection of musical instruments: 295 items
The second group of sculptures and masks comes from Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, part of the collections belong to the well-known scholar Ezio Bassani, the physician Alessandro Passaré and Franco Monti.
Lastly, the collection includes masks and ceremonial sculptures in addition to a sizeable number of utensils and other objects (such as carved wooden doors and locks from Mali) and several small clay statues from the ninth up to the sixteenth centuries. Overall, this collection offers an introduction to the material production of West and Central Africa.
Guinea, Baga People, 20th century, wood, metal tacks. Nimba, ritual mask for shoulders. This particular mask, which represents the mother, shows the parallel between the fertility of women and fields. His performances propitiate the birth and the rains, the growth of children and rice.
Congo, Bakongo People, 20th century, wood, mirror, resin. The reliquary statuette shows a full and realistic face typical of the Bakongo style. The arms, rest on the chest, hold up a reliquary closed by a glass that covers the whole surface of the body. Inside the “medicine” is conserved.
Africa, probably assembled in Benin, late 17th century XX, pearls, glass, shells, seeds, copper alloy. This necklace was created for the export market, the container is adorned, in the lower part, by three rows of pearls from which numerous decorations depart. The object is the result of an assembly of numerous elements of local, European and Asian origin. The highest number of beads is made up of beads made from recycled glass in pieces of different colors produced in the Krobo area. There is also a high number of pearls obtained from glass dust, some of which are of ancient workmanship.
Chinese manufacture, second half of the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1912), porcelain with enamels of the rose or fencai family. Vase in the shape of a flask with a short circular foot, decorated over the entire surface with the motif of the petals of the lotus flower in palpable pink enamel. The mouth, in green, has the shape of the fruit of the lotus, a detail that makes it an extremely rare specimen. A similar model is preserved in the Shanghai Art Museum.
Chinese production, 18th century, porcelain. ‘Chine de commande’ tea service. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a growing interest in Europe in the so-called “chinoiserie”, resulting in a brisk demand for items such as porcelains, lacquers, paintings, bronzes and jades. The city of Canton duly specialized in providing articles on commission, produced exclusively for export to the West.
Chinese manufacture, Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), large circular box with cloisonné metal lid and gilded bronze. The center of the lid is decorated with a pair of deer on the bank of a stream, beneath a peach tree, accompanied by herons in flight and on the branches, the scene is bordered by geometric motifs.
Chinese production, Tang dynasty, 618-906 A.D., glazed terracotta. Bixie, horned sphinx, is a particular "Spirit of the Earth": a guardian of the tombs during the Tang era. Its name literally means "one who drives away harmful influences".
Beijing (Yuanmingyuan), 1750 - 1780, glazed stoneware. The subject is a Buddha of "long life" Amitayus in the colors of yellow, green and blue, resting on a throne formed by a rectangular support enamelled with blue with a double-row decoration of lotus petals. The sculpture, an important architectural decorative element, comes from the imperial temples of the emperor Qianlong of Beijing.".
Japan, Edo Period (1603-1868), enameled craquelé type ceramic. Shell-shaped box (kaigatakogo) in light brown, with two side areas in pouring green below deck. Externally decorated with gold lacquered flower basket (toshitsu).
Japan, second half of the 16th century XIX, statuette in bronze and enamels champlevé of Chinese little lion (karashishi), with the rear legs raised and the front ones crushed to the ground. The champlevé is an ancient Limoges enamel decoration technique, which provides that the alveoli or cavities are dug on the surface of a metal object and filled with vitreous enamel. Bronze is a typical object created for export.
Japan, sec XIX, Tobacco bag (tabako-ire) in leather covered with fabric partly worked in gold, with metal mesh. On the outside the leather is covered with blue velvet, while inside there is a floral decoration in gold leaf on a blue background. On the closing flap of the handbag is a metal buckle (kanagu) depicting a dragon (ryu). The netsuke in carved ivory, on the other hand, depicts a frog, a snake and a snail: a very popular iconography in Japan, known as Sansukumi (literally "tripartite dead center"). The snake eats the toad but can be killed by the venom of the snail, the toad eats the snail but can be killed by the snake, finally the snail can kill the snake but it can be eaten by the toad.
Argentina, ante 1000, terracotta. Anthropomorphic vase depicting a Venetian steatopygia, with a large upper opening and lateral handles. Hand-shaped coarse gray-cream mixture; applied mouth, nose, eyes, eyebrows and ears. The vase represents a seated female figure with enormous legs and buttocks that act as the base of the vase. The face has engravings that simulate tattoos. The eyebrows and ears are represented by two lines in relief, without solution of continuity, which branch from the root of the nose and which are decorated with engraved horizontal dashes. Eyes (one is missing) to coffee bean.
Brazil, Kayapo culture, second half of the 20th century, cotton, feathers and vegetable fibers. Ornamental headdress made of cotton, quills and feathers. The cotton base consists of numerous interwoven strings. The 181 quills (153 red and 28 brown) are arranged in a single row and grow taller at the top of the headpiece, which is attached to a base made of buritì palm fiber by means of special laces. Used by high-ranking males on ritual occasions.
Peru, Inca culture, 15th - 16th centuries, cotton and camelid hair wool. Rectangular polychrome textile that depicts a series of quills of the kind applied to certain Andean ceremonial costumes. The warp of the fabric is made of cotton, while the tapestry weft is made of camelid hair, fiber and cotton.
Turkey, 17th century, silk velvet. Textile decorated with staggered rows of large stylized brocaded carnations on a red background. Each flower shape is a composite: from an arabesque motif two serrate leaves (saz) emerge, with a stylized tulip between them; the tulips in turn contain seven fringed carnation petals. Along the short sides of the textile are six sections depicting other stylized floral motifs. The stylized carnation in bloom was one of the most popular motifs for the textiles made in Bursa on the imperial looms and many variations exist.
Central Asia, 17th – 18th centuries, wood, ivory and leather. Saddle wood covered with leather edges and decorations in bone, lacquered in green. It presents a central floral motif depicting a tulip, one of the four classic flowers of Islamic art.
Syria, 1590-1610, ceramic. Square shaped tile painted in blue, green, mauve and white under transparent glaze. The decoration is divided into three vertical bands. In both side bands there is a continuous frieze of palmettes. The larger central part is adorned with a double-mouthed flower vase and arched handles. On the sides of the vase, decorated with spheres superimposed on motifs similar to rice grains, tulips and carnations can be recognized.
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OCEANIC ISLANDS
Thailand, Ban Chiang, 300 BC - 200 AD., Terracotta, burial pot with red decorations. These vessels, decorated with red spirals and hooks, are typical of the burial sites of Ban Chiang in the northeast of Thailand. Usually, they were buried with the body, containing food or other items for the deceased in his afterlife passing.
Indonesia, sec XX, wood, lime, red ocher, coal dust. The shield has a rectangular shape with red symbols on white backgrounds, typical decorative elements of the central Asmat region. These drawings are ainor symbols, used on shields to terrorize enemies. In the upper part of the shield there are two figures of ancestors carved and painted in red and black, which emerge from the shield itself and represent its tjemen.
HATS AND FANS COLLECTION
ETHNOGRAPHIC COLLECTION OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Pakistan, first half of the 20th century, wood, leather, horsehair, steel, brass, mirror, nylon. Sarinda (archlute), heart-shaped resonator partially covered in leather, which forms the soundboard featuring five inlaid round mirrors surrounded by smaller silver-coloured rings; the same decoration on the sides and the scrall; six tuning pegs (four missing). Various decorations with tufts of coloured thread.
Africa, before 1953, ivory. Ivory trumpet crossbar. A long elephant tusk used as a trumpet blown through a rhomboid opening placed laterally in the concave part at the point where the natural internal cavity becomes thinner until it ends. The tip of the tusk is worked in the shape of a spearhead that starts from two moldings in the form of joint spheres between rings carved in parallel.
Morocco, sec XX, leather, painted terracotta, rope. The body in the shape of a chalice, painted in blue, to form two bands with typical motifs of Arab folk decoration, opens upwards in a modest conical flare, on which a membrane of animal skin is stretched, probably mesoderm, secured. by means of glue. In Morocco it is considered first and foremost the women's drum, mainly in the urban environment, where the brightly painted versions circulate above all in the markets. Hold one hand at the narrowest point and beat the membrane with the other hand, usually without resorting to particular executive techniques, but still obtaining elaborate rhythmic effects due to the overlapping of multiple strokes simultaneously inflicted on as many drums.