This might loosely be described as a show about “drinking culture”. It explores the significance of water, tea and alcohol across Asia, looking at specific types of vessel that evolved in different regions: in South Asia, the lota and the kamandalu; in Southeast Asia, the kendi; in Korea, the kundika; everywhere, the ewer. It matches vessels with related images – from Japan, a sake cup of lacquered wood by Heisensai Jokyu, shown with a woodblock print by Ichirakutei Eisui of a courtesan holding a sake cup. This very structured approach had its merits but there was more to enjoy in certain “wildcard” items chosen, I think, to say something about the broader context – from Rajasthan, a glorious painting of the goddess Lakshmi, associated with fertility and good fortune, seated on a lotus flower, with a handsome pair of winged elephants pouring water over her from pitchers held high in their trunks.
Ritual and revelry: the art of drinking in Asia
British Museum, London
27 September 2012 to 6 January 2013
Above: Gaja-Lakshmi. India, Bundi, Rajasthan. Ca. 1780. Gouache on paper. Height 22.9cm; width 27.7cm. British Museum. Image: Trustees of the British Museum, at http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database.aspx.