What's Happening in Asian Art...

Looking Ahead, Looking Back: Ten Years of Asian Art (Part 3)

August 13, 2018

As we look towards Asia Week New York's tenth anniversary in March 2019, we're also taking a look back at the event's most memorable works of art. This is part 3 of a multi-part series in which we are showcasing the most important objects sold by our participants over the last decade. Check back here often or subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated. Below, the stories of four incredible objects:


A SILK PORTRAIT FROM ALAN KENNEDY

A rare portrait on silk was acquired by a museum from Alan Kennedy during Asia Week New York in 2016. This painting will soon be exhibited in a major exhibition  entitled, "Empresses of China's Forbidden City."  The exhibition opens at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts on August 18th, and will travel to the Freer/Sackler Museum in Washington, DC.

The painting depicts the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) in the guise of Guanyin, the Buddhist bodhisattva sometimes referred to as the Goddess of Mercy. It was painted by a court artist in the Forbidden City, and was created at the request of an American missionary named Reverend Issac Taylor Headland.  His wife was a physician who treated several of the women in Cixi's entourage.

One of the unique aspects of the portrait is that it depicts the face of the Empress Dowager in a realistic manner, without hiding the effects of age. Other paintings of her show Cixi in a more idealized manner, looking younger than her actual years. The Empress Dowager would not have been pleased if she had seen this portrait.The painting was reproduced in a book by Reverend Headland (Court Life in China, 1909), and he described the unusual circumstances behind the making of the painting. The portrait remained in the possession of his descendants until recent times, and will now be seen by the many visitors to the upcoming museum exhibitions.
 


RUNJEET SINGH'S BEJEWELLED DAGGER


Bejewelled dagger
17th-18th century
Turkey/India

This wonderful Khanjar or Jambiya dagger is of almost identical form to a well-known example in the Dresden Armoury (Rustkammer, Staaliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), Inv. No. Y143, illustrated in Holger Schuckelt, The Turkish Chamber (2010), p124-5, which was captured as booty at Varna by the Russians in 1828, and presented to Prince Carl of Prussia by Tsar Nicholas I.

This example, with a similar pale nephrite jade hilt and scabbard mounts, has more complex and abundant decoration with large flower heads and fruits in groupings of cabochon rubies, and leaves with cabochon emeralds. The base of the hilt features a row of small rubies and larger emeralds of ascending size, and the apex of the pommel has a double row of rubies terminating with green emerald tendrils on each side. The stones are all set in the ottoman style, secured within silver gilt shaped collets and straps in imitation of Indian kundan work.

On the wavy snake-like blade of watered steel, traces of gold decoration remain at the forte as well as a gold border along the edges. The original wooden scabbard, recovered in its later life, is fitted with original throat piece and chape of matching jade.

The dagger was sold by Runjeet Singh to a private collector during Asia Week New York 2018.
 


A PAIR OF CERAMIC CHAIRS AT DAI ICHI ARTS


SUZUKI Goro 鈴木五郎 (1941- )
Left: Los Angeles Oribe Chair ‒Foot- ロス織部 椅子 ( 座面に足 ) H18.8” x W10.2” x D9.4”, Stoneware
Right: Los Angeles Oribe Chair ‒Mt. Fuji- ロス織部 椅子 ( 富士山 ) H19.4” x W10.8” x D10.2”, Stoneware

From Dai Ichi Arts: "This is a pair of ceramic chairs created by our artist SUZUKI Goro (1941- ) who is pushing his own limits in the pursuit of his art. He combines his skills in throwing and building with a lifetime's knowledge of material. You can truly say that he was born in clay and plays in clay. This pair was exhibited in our window during Asia Week New York 2018, and they attracted many people's attention with their playful and whimsical form and design. Both chairs were sold to a private collector who admires Suzuki's work."
 


A SYMBOLIC UNION AT KAPOOR GALLERIES


Radha and Krishna Intertwined, Folio from the Kangra 1775 Gita Govinda

The Kangra 1775 Gita Govinda is seen by scholars and connoisseurs alike as the most profound illustration of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, which translates as “Song of Dark Lord”. Created in the late 12th century, Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda is a monumental work of literature from Indian culture. Superficially it portrays the ageless story of the arduous love between man and woman, it is also an allegory for the love of god. The Gita Govinda is the only example of miniature painting in which such a vast illustration of romantic encounters is explored.

In this image, the passionate lovemaking and climactic union of Radha, a symbol of the “goddess”, and Krishna, the love of god, is depicted with full emotion. Radha has boldly and confidently aligned herself directly atop Krishna in order to control the lovemaking, which represents the transcendent union of humans with the Divine, forgetting about ego and dissolving in supreme ecstasy.

This folio was sold at Kapoor Galleries during Asia Week New York 2016 to a private European collection.

Looking Ahead, Looking Back: Ten Years of Asian Art (Part 2)

July 16, 2018

As we look towards Asia Week New York's tenth anniversary in March 2019, we're also taking a look back at the event's most memorable works of art. This is part 2 of a multi-part series in which we will be showcasing the most important objects sold by our participants over the last decade. Check back here often or subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated. Below, the stories of four incredible objects:


GIUSEPPE PIVA'S RARE SAMURAI ARMOR


An exceptional samurai armor from the Inaba clan
Mid Edo period (1615 - 1867), 18th century
Helmet signed: “Masuda Myochin Minbu Ki no Munesada Saku” and dated: "A lucky day in February in the 7th year of Horyaku" (1757)
Provenance: Iyo no kami Inaba clan

The helmet is made in the style of a Kamakura period kabuto, with an 18 plates rounded bowl showing large protruding rivets. The exquisite parcel giltwood front decoration is shaped as a shachihoko, a mythical creature often represented as protection against fire. The neck guard is covered with a rare horsehair red and white decoration. The cuirass is richly decorated in maki-e lacquer over a black ground, with a red figure of Raijin—the god of Thunder—creating a storm beating his drums among clouds. The same black lacquer is used to cover all the other armor’s parts, except for the helmet’s bowl.

The Inaba family originated in 16th century Mino Province; during the Edo period, as hereditary vassals of the Tokugawa, the clan was classified fudai and its members were appointed daimyō of large and strategic provinces; they also covered various important administrative, political and military roles. Myochin Munesada, who signed and dated the kabuto, is reported to be son of the famous Muneakira; his works are very rare.

The armor was sold by dealer Giuseppe Piva during Asia Week New York 2016 to a private European collector.
 


A SONG WITHOUT A SOUND AT M. SUTHERLAND FINE ARTS


Jia Youfu
A Song Without a Sound
2007
Ink on Xuan paper
33.5 x 63 inches

Dealer Martha Sutherland shares some vivid memories below:

I first saw this piece in Jia You Fu’s studio outside of Beijing one hot, sultry summer day. It was one of only several “da hua” that Jia painted over the previous winter. He usually kept one or two very large scale paintings and then did several more slightly smaller versions on a similar theme.  

“Song without a Sound” stopped me in my tracks when I entered the studio.  Painted only in ink and ink wash with no colored mineral pigments, the composition is like a vortex, spinning within the rocky precipices of a Northwestern Chinese mountainscape, as if you were hypnotized and lured into the scene. The more one studies the brushwork, the more one is amazed at the artist’s control of the layers of ink washes and brushwork.   

A new client walked into my gallery during Asia Week New York. Having done his homework, he requested a private appointment for a more relaxed and intimate look at other Jia Youfu pieces in the inventory several weeks hence.  When he saw “Song Without a Sound” for the first time, he reacted much like I did in Beijing. I knew then that he would buy it. 

M. Sutherland Fine Arts is lucky to still have a handful of pieces by Jia in our inventory. Each year, Asia Week New York turns out more new serious collectors who come to New York from throughout the States, Europe and Asia.
 


THREE GIANTS AT JOAN B. MIRVISS LTD


Kamoda Shōji (1933-1983)
Slightly flattened ovoid vessel with blue enamel decoration and striped matte black ground
1977
Glazed stoneware
12 1/4 x 9 1/2 x 7 in.
31.3 x 24.5 x 18.3 cm.
Photo by Richard Goodbody

Trevor H. Menders, during an internship at Joan B. Mirviss Ltd, reflected on the gallery's seminal Asia Week New York 2018 exhibition:

Asia Week New York 2018 witnessed contemporary Japanese clay assuming its rightful place as fine art in the American public eye. The transformative 20th-century Japanese ceramists Kamoda Shōji, Matsui Kōsei, and Wada Morihiro featured in our exhibition Three Giants of the North each appeared by both name and image in numerous publications. While these appearances were significant, the biggest victory for the entire field of modern Japanese ceramics comprised two New York Times articles: “Asia Week’s Rare and Unusual Objects for Art Lovers and Collectors” and “21 Art Exhibitions to view in NYC This Weekend.”

In the first, only three works were illustrated: the National Treasure 17th-century screens of Pines by Hasegawa Tōhaku [Japan Society], the second an ancient Tibetan mandala [Asia Society], but the third prominently featured a stoneware vessel by Kamoda Shōji from Three Giants. Modern ceramics were clearly equated with benchmark master paintings from the bygone eras. For us, this was a transformative moment for both East and West.

The second NYT article stated: “the work ranges from religious statuary to textiles, prints and paintings. The collection of ceramics by the excellent 20th-century potter Kamoda Shōji at Joan B. Mirviss is a notable highlight.” Giants appeared as the second exhibition listed, directly following a discussion of a show on modern Brazilian art at MoMA. The same stoneware vessel by Kamoda appeared at the top of the page.

The appearance of works by 20th century Japanese clay artists next to the likes of Momoyama period folding screens or Latin American modernist pioneers has always been an aspiration for us, but never an expectation. Introducing Japanese ceramics to the West has been a process spanning four decades. Having a luminary of modern ceramics appear on the same page as a major MoMA exhibition in the New York Times marks a coming to fruition of this challenge, and a triumphant start to the gallery’s fifth decade.
 


A VESSEL-SHAPED TABLE AT NICHOLAS GRINDLEY


A jichimu table in the form of an archaic fang ding
China, probably Daoguang (1821-1850)
Jichimu wood
33 3/4 x 63 5/8 x 19 1/2 in
(85.7 x 161.6 x 49.5 cm)

Rebecca Gardner, manager at Nicholas Grindley Works of Art, writes:

The most unusual item we have shown during the 10 years we've participated in Asia Week New York was the archaic-form table we exhibited in March 2017. This attracted attention from both furniture enthusiasts and archaic bronze collectors alike.

The table, made from jichimu, was in the form of an archaic fang ding, a bronze ceremonial vessel, but was constructed during the Qing dynasty—probably Daoguang 1821-1850. Before we acquired this table, only two other examples of tables of this archaic fang ding form were published, and these might well have been the same table, although the dimensions vary in the two publications. The first was in the catalogue of the Guanfu Museum, Beijing, page 75. The Guanfu Museum is a non-profit museum in the PRC with its main location in Beijing; Ma Wei-Du is the founder and director of the museum. The second was published in Tian Jiaqing’s ‘Classic Chinese Furniture of the Qing Dynasty’ no. 90, page 200, where it is attributed to “Antique Shop, Beijing."

We sold our table to a prominent private collector, who in turn lent it to the Art Institute of Chicago for their exhibition early in 2018, Mirroring China’s Past: Emperors and Their Bronzes.

Looking Ahead, Looking Back: Ten Years of Asian Art (Part 1)

June 27, 2018

As we look towards Asia Week New York's tenth anniversary in March 2019, we're also taking a look back at the event's most memorable works of art. This is part 1 of a multi-part series in which we will be showcasing the most important objects sold by our participants over the last decade. Check back here often or subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated. To start, scroll down to read the accounts of three of our participating dealers:
 


ONISHI GALLERY'S "RING OF FLOWERS"


Tokuda Yasokichi III (1933-2009), Living National Treasure
Plate Rinka (Ring of Flowers)
2000
Porcelain with vivid colored glazes (yôsai)
h. 4 x dia. 22 inches

This stunning, vividly colored porcelain piece "Ring of Flowers" by Japanese Living National Treasure Tokuda Yasokokichi III was exhibited at Onishi Gallery during Asia Week New York 2013 and was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art through the William R. Appleby Fund. It is now on view at the Met in the Contemporary Japanese Ceramics gallery. 
 


INTRICATE GOLD EARRINGS AT SUSAN OLLEMANS


A large pair of gold filigree drop earrings from the Silla Period, 6th Century, Korea. Length: 8.7 cm.

Gold earrings were worn by both men and women of the Silla and Gaya elite, and are the most prevalent type of jewelry found in tombs. Goldsmith techniques on display here range from simple hammering to the more complex method of granulation, in which tiny gold beads were adhered to the surface to create intricate designs.

The earrings were sold to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2013. Similar examples exist in the collections of the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
 


A DECCANI MINIATURE AT OLIVER FORGE & BRENDAN LYNCH


An Illustration to a Romance Written in Deccani Urdu, the Gulshan-i 'Ishq (Rose Garden of Love) by Nusrati, Court Poet to Sultan 'Ali Adil Shah II of Bijapur (r.1656-72 A.D.):
Angels descend from the heavens to visit a princess
Deccan, India, circa 1700-20
Opaque watercolour on paper heightened with gold and silver
Miniature: 22.3 by 14.4 cm.; 8 ¾ by 5 5/8 in.
Page 39.5 by 23.5 cm.; 15 ½ by 9 ¼ in.

"This painting was bought by an English collector, Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Lloyd, one of seven offered at Christie’s in 1979," explain the dealers. "In 2010 the Lloyds asked us to sell their collection and, via our Asia Week New York 2011 catalogue, we were able to establish not only the great significance of the manuscript from which the painting comes, but that of this particular painting."

The unique design and palette of this evocative Deccan night-scene painting dramatically contrast the cascade of colour heralding the descent of the angels with the monochrome world of the cool, silent, moonlight-suffused palace. This is probably the finest page from what is unquestionably the finest Deccani manuscript of the period, outstanding for its calligraphy, its superb technical accomplishment and its poetical fantasy. The unpublished colophon (Christie’s, 1979) notes that the work was written by an unnamed author who ‘lived during the reign of ‘Ali ‘Adil Shahi, under whom I grew prosperous’. This would be ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah II of Bijapur (b. 1637) who ruled 1656-72 A.D., although there was no indication of a royal patron for the manuscript. 

The painting was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it is currently on view in their Islamic Art galleries.

Asia Week New York Dealers Carry On Amid Springtime Blizzard

March 21, 2018

For the second consecutive year, a snowstorm has befallen New York City during Asia Week New York—and once again, our fearless dealers opened their doors despite the inclement weather. Here are a few photos they've shared throughout the day!

 

Suneet Kapoor (left) and Carol Conover of Kaikodo LLC, undeterred by the snow.
 

 

It’s snowing out but we’re open! 下雪天,我們照常營業~ @asiaweekny

A post shared by J J Lally & Co (@jjlallynyc) on

 

 

BachmannEckenstein | JapaneseArt even decided to offer discounts today—1% off for every inch of snow! And lucky for you, they will be open an additional day tomorrow as their flight back to Switzerland has been delayed.
 

 

Lastly, to make sure Scholten Japanese Art remains open, director Katherine Martin is camping out at the gallery during the storm, surrounded by handsome kabuki actors.

Asia Week New York 2018: Mid-Week Roundup

March 18, 2018

Above: people and paintings at the opening party for Kaikodo LLC's exhibition "Parallel Lives."

As the sun sets on Day 4 of our 2018 edition, let's take a moment to reflect on these opening days as we gear up for another busy week ahead. Below is a selection of photos taken in and around the galleries.

Asia Week New York got off to a festive start with a cocktail reception hosted by Aman, our 2018 Presenting Sponsor, at the stunning Upper East side residence of interior designer Sandra Nunnerley. Read more about the evening here.

On Wednesday and Thursday, journalists previewed the artwork on offer during our annual press walk—a whirlwind tour of the 40+ gallery exhibitions. Above, a group shot taken at Dai Ichi Arts, Ltd.

James Lally of J. J. Lally & Co. presented his selection of ancient Chinese jade to the press.

On Friday evening, many dealers held opening receptions for their exhibitions. Above, the opening of "Chittaprosad, 1915–1978: A Retrospective" at DAG.

On Saturday and Sunday, all 45 dealers opened their doors to the public for our annual Open House Weekend. Above, the inviting setup at Findlay Galleries.

Our dealers are renowned Asian art specialists with a wealth of knowledge, and are always willing to strike up a conversation with visitors, be they budding enthusiasts or seasoned collectors. Above, Richard Waldman of the Art of Japan (left) and Andrew Kahane.

Competition among dealers can be fierce! Arms and armor specialist Runjeet Singh demonstrates his wares to fellow exhibitor Alexis Renard (rest assured, no one was harmed in the taking of this photo).

Despite relatively low temperatures over the weekend, visitors flocked to the galleries. Above, the well-insulated crowd at Onishi Gallery.

Most exhibitions remain open until March 24, so there's still plenty of time to discover what The New York Times called "Asia Week's rare and unusual objects." See you in the galleries!

Aman Cocktail Reception Kicks Off Asia Week New York

March 16, 2018

Asia Week New York got off to a festive start with a cocktail reception hosted by Aman, the Presenting Sponsor of Asia Week New York, at the stunning Upper East side residence of interior designer Sandra Nunnerley. Dressed in their very colorful native garb, Aman general managers mingled with a crowd of collectors, interior designers, journalists, and their loyal Amanjunkies. The highlight of the evening was the surprise raffle that took place and three lucky winners were selected to discover one of the properties.  Among the attendees were Ian White, Aman Indonesia; Tapa Tibble, Aman Sveti Stefan, John Reed, Amankora, Sven Van Den Broeck, Amanzoe, Yasuo Mizobuchi, Aman Japan, Donald Wong, Amantaka & Amansara,Serge Ditesheim, Amanyara, Nicolas Pillet, Amanoi. Also in the crowd were Geoffrey Bradfield, Ronald Bricke, James Andrews, Craig Manson, one of the winners of the raffle, Lark Mason, Alex Papachristidis, Philip Thomas, Edith Dicconson, Ritam Bhalla, Christina Prescott-Walker, and Christina Deeny, Marguita Kracht, and Jane Mackie who are part of the Aman marketing team.

Learn more about Aman here.

Behind the Scenes at the Galleries

March 14, 2018

Above: Giuseppe Piva, from Milan, Italy, unpacking boxes and boxes of artwork.

Our dealers are hard at work installing their exhibitions and getting ready to open to the public on Thursday, March 15—take a look behind the scenes:

Unpacking boxes at Tai Modern...

...matting prints at Scholten Japanese Art...

....planning the layout at Findlay Galleries...

...making sure everything is level at Oliver Forge & Brendan Lynch Ltd...

...hanging artwork at Robert Kuo Ltd...

...carefully handling textiles at Alan Kennedy...

...multi-tasking at Tenzing Asian Art...

....installing lights at Michael Hughes LLC...

...working as a team at Kai Gallery...

...adjusting the spotlight on a Lee Ufan work at Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art...

...and setting up gorgeous flower arrangements at Dai Ichi Arts Ltd!

See you tomorrow in the galleries!

 

Spotlight on AMAN, Presenting Sponsor of
Asia Week New York 2018

March 12, 2018

AMAN: CONNECTING PEOPLE TO THE SPIRIT OF A PLACE
    
Since 1988, Aman has been to its guests both a retreat and a step forward – an opportunity to cast aside quotidian distractions and explore the possibilities of a better, more nourished self. From untouched Indonesian islands to the heart of the world’s greatest cities, Aman’s 31 intimate sanctuaries invite guests out of their everyday lives and into a nurturing space for body, mind and spirit.

31 Extraordinary Destinations

Seek a shift

Ancient and modern healing principles converge in Aman Wellness – a chance to restore equilibrium and achieve lasting wellbeing. From the hammams of Morocco to the hot springs of Japan, begin a journey of reawakening. On an immersive retreat, allow yourself to be transformed, and unlock inner vitality with guidance from some of the world’s most renowned health specialists. 

Become a pioneer

Cross new frontiers on multi-destination journeys by air and sea. Go beyond the usual itinerary through extended, customised trips that take you from one unique destination to another. From the lofty peaks of Bhutan to the breath-taking reefs surrounding Indonesia’s fabled spice islands, Aman seeks ways to make the world’s most remote destinations accessible, through exceptional, individually curated expeditions and adventures. 

At home around the world

Available to own, Residences provide complete immersion in the Aman way of living. Created in partnership with some of the world’s most respected and visionary architects, the Residences offer their owners all the beauty, simplicity and personal attention of an Aman resort, balanced with the perfect seclusion of a private home in one of the world’s most remarkable locations. 

Learn more at aman.com.

Who's Open When: 2018 Gallery Exhibition Dates in a Single Graph

January 25, 2018

While most gallery exhibitions are open for all ten days of Asia Week New York 2018, which runs March 15–24, several will not be open every day. And a few will stay open past March 24!

We've created a handy graph with exhibition dates for all 45 participating dealers. If an exhibition is open past the last day of Asia Week New York, the closing date is listed at far right.

Download a PDF of the graph here!
We recommend printing it out and taking it with you while you gallery hop.

Asian Art 101: What Is a Handscroll?

December 4, 2017

Perhaps the best online explanation of a Chinese handscroll can be found on The Metropolitan Museum of Art Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History—Dawn Delbanco's beautifully penned description is pasted below:

A significant difference between Eastern and Western painting lies in the format. Unlike Western paintings, which are hung on walls and continuously visible to the eye, most Chinese paintings are not meant to be on constant view but are brought out to be seen only from time to time. This occasional viewing has everything to do with format.

A predominant format of Chinese painting is the handscroll, a continuous roll of paper or silk of varying length on which an image has been painted, and which, when not being viewed, remains rolled up. Ceremony and anticipation underlie the experience of looking at a handscroll. When in storage, the painting itself is several layers removed from immediate view, and the value of a scroll is reflected in part by its packaging. Scrolls are generally kept in individual wooden boxes that bear an identifying label. Removing the lid, the viewer may find the scroll wrapped in a piece of silk, and, unwrapping the silk, encounters the handscroll bound with a silken cord that is held in place with a jade or ivory toggle. After undoing the cord, one begins the careful process of unrolling the scroll from right to left, pausing to admire and study it, shoulder-width section by section, rerolling a section before proceeding to the next one.

To mimic the experience of viewing a handscroll from right to left, scroll all the way to the right first, then use your mouse to slowly move left across the image.

Lo Ping (1733-99)
Dreaming of Retirement at Lou-t'ai, 1774
Handscroll, ink and color on paper
5.2 x 139.2 cm (10 x 54 3/4 in)
Image courtesy of Kaikodo LLC

The experience of seeing a scroll for the first time is like a revelation. As one unrolls the scroll, one has no idea what is coming next: each section presents a new surprise. Looking at a handscroll that one has seen before is like visiting an old friend whom one has not seen for a while. One remembers the general appearance, the general outlines, of the image, but not the details. In unrolling the scroll, one greets a remembered image with pleasure, but it is a pleasure that is enhanced at each viewing by the discovery of details that one has either forgotten or never noticed before.

Looking at a handscroll is an intimate experience. Its size and format preclude a large audience; viewers are usually limited to one or two. Unlike the viewer of Western painting, who maintains a certain distance from the image, the viewer of a handscroll has direct physical contact with the object, rolling and unrolling the scroll at his/her own desired pace, lingering over some passages, moving quickly through others.

Hai Tao
Look Forward to Peace, 2012
Ink on rice paper, handscroll
12 x 97 1/2 in
Image courtesy of M. Sutherland Fine Arts

The format of a handscroll allows for the depiction of a continuous narrative or journey: the viewing of a handscroll is a progression through time and space—both the narrative time and space of the image, but also the literal time and distance it takes to experience the entire painting. As the scroll unfurls, so the narrative or journey progresses. In this way, looking at a handscroll is like reading a book: just as one turns from page to page, not knowing what to expect, one proceeds from section to section; in both painting and book, there is a beginning and an end.

Shao Mi (1592?-1642)
The Filial Liu Mourning his Parents, 1631
Handscroll, ink on paper
28 x 87.5 cm
Image courtesy of Kaikodo LLC

Indeed, this resemblance is not incidental. The handscroll format—as well as other Chinese painting formats—reveals an intimacy between word and image. Many handscrolls contain inscriptions preceding or following the image: poems composed by the painter or others that enhance the meaning of the image, or a few written lines that convey the circumstances of its creation. Many handscrolls also contain colophons, or commentary written onto additional sheets of paper or silk that follows the image itself. These may be comments written by friends of the artist or the collector; they may have been written by viewers from later generations. The colophons may comment on the quality of the painting, express the rhapsody (rarely the disenchantment) of the viewer, give a biographical sketch of the artist, place the painting within an art-historical context, or engage with the texts of earlier colophons. And as a final way of making their presence known, the painter, the collectors, the one-time viewers often “sign” the image or colophons with personal seals bearing their names, these red marks of varying size conveying pride of authorship or ownership.

Thus the handscroll is both painted image and documentary history; past and present are in continuous dialogue. Looking at a scroll with colophons and inscriptions, a viewer sees not only a pictorial representation but witnesses the history of the painting as it is passed down from generation to generation.

Delbanco, Dawn. “Chinese Handscrolls.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chhs/hd_chhs.htm (April 2008)

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