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Scratching the Surface: Metalwork from China, Japan, India, Pakistan and Iran

Stand or vessel in the form of an Ox, Chinese (Qianlong Reign), 1736 - 96 © Victoria _ Albert Museum, London, Water vessel, Probably Lahore, Pakistan. c.1580-1600 © Victoria _ Albert Museum, London, Water-pipe base and bowl, Haji Abbas, 1850-75, Iran ©Victoria _ Albert Museum, London
Monday 2 November 2020 - Thursday 31 March 2022

Sheffield’s designated metalwork collection is famous for locally crafted objects, but many people are unaware that it also contains thousands of items made overseas. The collection includes eclectic examples of holloware from across Asia, from bowls and braziers to candlesticks and Qur’an cases.

Sheffield’s collection received artefacts from two major sources during the 1880s. In 1881, antiquarian and former Master Cutler William Bragge provided objects from Japan and Iran for the newly opened Weston Park Museum. In 1886 the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) purchased items at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition and dispersed them to regional museum collections across the UK. In both cases objects were chosen for their artistic merit, ‘to elevate the mind’. This selection shows some of the most elaborate designs, incorporating traditional cultural influences in the form of literature, myth and religion.

The V&A have loaned works to support DesignLab Nation. DesignLab Nation is part of the V&A’s National Schools Programme, which aims to inspire the next generation of designers, makers and innovators and expand the reach of the V&A collections. The programme brings together secondary schools in partnership with regional museums, designers, industries and the V&A to engage students and support teachers through in-depth design projects.

Supported by

Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016


With additional support from Sarah Nichols

The V&A was awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016. The prize money has been used to support DesignLab Nation.

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