Sunken treasure

Céramiques chinoises du XVe siècle provenant de la jonque LENA

6 avril 2001 - 1 juillet 2001


The "Sunken Treasure" exhibition, organised and presented by the Baur Collection in Geneva, has been designed as an invitation to a voyage and a discovery: a voyage to the Philippines, on the west of the Island of Busuanga, where the wreck of the Lena junk was discovered in 1997 at the depth of 50 meters, and the discovery of the diversity of late 15th century export ceramics. 207 objects have been selected from the huge cargo.

Through their sheer bulk and their quality, combined with their rich iconography, the Lena ceramics constitute a unique source for comparison and dating. The famous collections of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and those of the Ardebil Shrine, housed in the Teheran National Museum, are the only ones to present a great number of Chinese ceramics comparable to this exceptional cargo.

Each of the assembled items required a presentation corresponding to its particular fate. And so the entrance to the exhibition recalls the marine environment.

The first gallery groups together Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese ceramics. The Thai celadons are presented in groups according to their production site. The Vietnamese "blue and white" ceramic cargo consisted of only 27 articles. A large lobed dish with brown glaze remains one of the mysterious pieces in the cargo, as its production site is still uncertain. The set of Chinese celadons enables us from now on, to define the stylistic characteristics of late 15th century production. The Chinese "blue and white" porcelains are assembled according to decorative themes in order to illustrate the iconographic wealth of the cargo.

The second gallery presents the exceptional Chinese pieces. Small but fine quality celadons, large dishes and white monochrome bowls. The ewers, the pen box, the filter bottles and the oval boxes are unusual porcelains. The items assembled in the large showcase demonstrate the diversity of export porcelain decoration at the end of the 15th century.

In the final gallery, we wanted to evoke the quantity of porcelain found in the cargo with a systematic presentation of similar dishes. Chinese and Vietnamese jars placed on a ship's deck, speak of long ocean voyages.

The exhibits presented in this way enable the visitors to capture the magic and myth of the "ceramic route".