The Ring Collection of Bencharong in Chicago
Bencharong, literally meaning “five-colored” in Thai, is an enameled type of porcelain with polychrome hand-painted patterns, which, despite its name, more commonly uses three to eight colors. The group of Bencharong wares or “Siamese porcelain” (from present-day Thailand) acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1923 is a rich collection full of inventive and skillful design.
This eclectic and little-known group originally came from Commander Theodor Peder Amundsen Ring (1866‒1932), a Norwegian adventurer who went to sea in 1882, before moving to the Far East to work first in China and then in Siam for the Royal Navy during the reign of HM King Chulalongkorn. Mr. Ring was one of the earliest and largest Western collectors of Bencharong wares at the time. The collection at the Art Institute was acquired during a nine-year stay in Siam, from 1897 to 1906, and most of it in Bangkok.
The significance of the Ring collection from Siam has only been brought to light recently in the West through renewed scholarly attention and exhibitions. Thanks to well-preserved archives kept at the Art Institute of Chicago, we are now able to understand and celebrate the full extent of this fascinating collection in North America.
About the speaker
Nicolas Revire holds a doctoral degree from the Université Paris 3–Sorbonne nouvelle in France. He specializes in the Buddhist art and archeology of early Southeast Asia, with a research focus on Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. He is general editor of Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology (2014) and Decoding Southeast Asian Art: Studies in Honor of Piriya Krairiksh (2022). After nearly two decades of teaching at Thammasat University in Bangkok, he is presently the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Research Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago.
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