Asian Treasures from The Billings Collection

Thank you to our Lead Corporate Sponsor

William Raveis Nantucket

With generous support from:

Julie Jensen Bryan & Robert Bryan
Susan Blount & Richard Bard
The H. L. Brown Jr. Family Foundation
Kaaren & Charles Hale
Franci Neely
Melinda & Paul Sullivan
Jason Tilroe

Stories from the Billings Asian Art Collection with Guest Curator Dr. Alice R. M. Hyland

Explore the digital exhibition

Unglazed earthenware Sichuan figure of a story-teller, Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), 8 ¼”.

The exhibition draws from the collection that longtime Nantucket residents and world travelers David Billings and Beverly Hall Billings have assembled over 50 years. It all started with a book, and two pieces of Asian art David Billings received as a gift, and now their collection includes 4,000 artifacts. The items in the collection elucidate political, economic, and religious events and, at the same time, present enormous aesthetic appeal. Most illustrate significant Chinese innovations and discoveries over the millennia.

Featuring paintings, textiles, bronzes, and jade items. However, ceramics will predominate, including some of the earliest known pieces of earthenware from 5,000 BCE and porcelain, which dates from the Qing Dynasty, the last Imperial Chinese Dynasty.

Embroidered Vest, Xia Pei, with Applied Rank Badges to Front and Rear, Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) 19th Century, 38”.


The exhibit will also include a scholar’s table featuring items an ancient Chinese scholar might have used to contemplate and write, a Japanese Buddhist household shrine, and robes from the imperial court. While the Billings collection concentrates on China, additional pieces will appear from India, Burma, Tibet, Korea, and Japan.

Among the many objects that will captivate visitors is a pair of exquisite gold finials inlaid with rare kingfisher feathers, a selection of Chinese snuff bottles, Tibetan and tea ceremony objects, a large Butsudan shrine, a Jin Rickshaw, and a wonderfully articulated diorama of a Peking opera. A Jade burial body suit cleverly concealed will round out this exceptional exhibition.


Hip Roof Tile of Dragon and Rider, Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), 27”.
A pair of large kingfisher feather-embellished gilt metal finials of a roaring dragon, Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), 21 ½” x 16”. Provenance: Christies, NYC.

Banner photo depicts an important and impressive pair of painted earthenware drummers and drum, jiangu. Western Han Dynasty, 3rd–1st centuries BC. Height: 9 ½ inches

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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