The British Museum has declared a major bequest from the late Sir Joseph Hotung to be one of the most important in the history of the museum.
Hotung, who was a trustee of the British Museum from 1994 to 2004, died in December 2021 and had previously loaned a number of items to the museum. He was a collector, businessman and philanthropist, born in Shanghai and educated in China, the United States and the University of London.
The latest bequest adds to Hotung’s earlier donations of Chinese artwork.
Many of them were already on display at the Selwyn and Ellie Alleyne Jade Gallery, adjacent to the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia, a gallery he endowed twice, in 1992 and twenty-five years later. in 2017.
In addition to donating the items already on display, Sir Joseph bequeathed fifteen very fine blue and white porcelain pieces from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) and early Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and a dry lacquer head of a bodhisattva, which will be exhibited in the coming months.
The bequest includes 246 jades (including three new jades), fifteen rare blue and white porcelains from the Yuan dynasty and the beginning of the Ming dynasty, 24 bronzes and other metalwork objects, a Neolithic white pottery jar as well as a dry lacquer of a bodhisattva.
George Osborne, Chairman of the British Museum Trustees, said Hotung “has had a warm and enduring relationship with the British Museum and is among our most important philanthropists.
“This is one of the most generous gifts we have ever received, and it means that future generations will be able to enjoy these beautiful objects and learn more about China’s extraordinary history.”
Carol Michaelson, Curator of the Asia Department, said: “It is rare to have an exhibition, outside of Asia, presenting a complete and chronological history of Chinese jade. The bequest is the result of Sir Joseph’s long and close relationship with the British Museum and further highlights his great generosity. »
Sir Joseph’s family said: “We are delighted that our father’s collections are now seen by the millions of visitors who pass through the Museum each year and that this important region of the world is better represented.