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Spring Morning in the Han Palace
  Attributed to Ch'iu Ying (ca. 1494-1552), Ming Dynasty
Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 34.2 x 474.5 cm

Ch'iu Ying, who went by the style name Shih-fu, was a native of T'ai-ts'ang in Kiangsu who moved in his youth to Soochow. He studied painting under Chou Ch'en. Through the introduction of the famous literati artist Wen Cheng-ming, he was able to do paintings at the residences of such renowned collectors as Hsiang Yüan-pien and Ch'en Kuan. At Hsiang's residence, he viewed famous works from the Sung (960-1279) and Yüan (1279-1368) dynasties, and his painting advanced so much that he was later praised as one of the Four Ming Masters.
   
After Ch'iu Ying's Spring Morning in the Han Palace
  Leng Mei (fl. ca. 1662-1722), Ch'ing Dynasty,
Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 33.4 x 800.8 cm

Leng Mei served as a court painter during the reign of the K'ang-hsi Emperor (r. 1662-1722), his works dating from 1703 to 1717. A native of Chiao-chou in Shantung province, he excelled at figure painting and portraiture. This work was done upon imperial order in 1703 as an imitation of a 1542 painting by the same name by the famous Ming painter Ch'iu Ying. However, it is not an exact tracing, but an imitation done from his recollection of the painting. The brushwork is elegant and strong, and the coloring is radiant and beautiful.

"Spring Morning in the Han Palace" is an imaginative reconstruction of life among palace women in the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Several versions exist in the National Palace Museum collection, testifying to the popularity in copying it. In one of the scenes in this work, a painter uses a frame to stretch tight a painting on silk (or perhaps paper) as he faces the empress and does a portrait of her in the palace. This might also be a reference to the anecdote of the Han court painter Mao Yen-shou, who intentionally depicted the beauty Wang Chao-chün as ugly for not bribing him. The emperor, based on her portrait, thereupon assigned her as a bride to a tribal chieftain. The portrait of the empress here appears to be a half-length one. Traditionally, after such a half-length portrait was finalized, it would often be used to create a formal portrait, such as the half-length portrait of the consort of the Sung emperor Kao-tsung on exhibit here.  This is similar to a costume portrait photo taken of an actor from a specific scene in a film from the old days of movie making. Using this method, a half-length portrait can be transferred to become a full-length portrait, like the one in "Seated Portrait of Sung Kao-tsung's Empress". Of the paintings of emperors and empresses in the National Palace Museum collection, many reveal an almost identical relationship between half- and full-length versions. Such works thus can provide valuable clues to the steps involved in "to transmit by copying".



Sung Kao-tsung's Empress (Leaf 9 from "Half-length Portraits of Sung Emperors and Empresses")
  Anonymous, Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
Album leaf, ink and color on silk, 56 x 46 cm
Leaf 9 from "Half-length Portraits of Sung Emperors and Empresses"
   
Seated Portrait of Sung Kao-tsung's Empress
  Anonymous, Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 187 x 103.5 cm

Emperor Kao-tsung of the Sung dynasty, who reigned from 1127 to 1162, had two empresses, with this painting representing Empress Wu. The empress was a native of the capital who entered the court at the age of 13. Not many years later, she was promoted to Lady of Hsin-hsing Prefecture. Empress Wu was also an avid reader, and she was quite cultivated in the art of calligraphy, receiving special attention from Emperor Kao-tsung.

The empress here wears a nine-dragon hairpin crown, pendants, as well as pearls on her face. She has on a dark blue robe decorated with paired paired pheasants, along with red gauze featuring dragon patterns. She is wearing an important ceremonial robe that was used for such major state rituals as being conferred with title, calling upon the Ching-lin Palace, and court meetings.

Heavy colors are used in the painting, and the contrast between red and blue create for an utterly dazzling beauty. There is almost no difference between these two paintings, revealing the precision of the copying involved.


There are many reasons why a painter may do more than one version of the same work, and one of the most concrete examples of such is with the Ming artist Ch'iu Ying. Perhaps because Ch'iu Ying was a professional artist, he naturally did copies as part of making a living.

Eastern Grove
  Ch'iu Ying (ca. 1494-1552), Ming Dynasty
Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 29.5 x 136.4 cm

"Eastern Grove" was done for a "Mr. Tung-lin (Eastern Grove)." Of known Ming dynasty individuals with the sobriquet "Tung-lin", the one living at the same time that this work was done was Chia Ting (1448-1523). There are very few differences between these two paintings in terms of composition and figural arrangement. "Eastern Grove", however, was done on silk, which does not absorb ink as well. The colors are more beautiful and the painting of the rocks includes moist axe-cut texture strokes, which do not appear in "Garden Dwelling" done on paper. There is almost no doubt that Ch'iu Ying did both of these works, but the difference in the signature was due perhaps to the fact that Ch'iu Ying did not excel at calligraphy. It is even said that he had someone ghostwrite his signatures. Of the signatures seen on Ch'iu Ying paintings today, most were calligraphed in regular or clerical script. The style of the signature on "Eastern Grove" derives from that of Wen Chia (1500-1583), and the one on "Garden Dwelling" from Wen P'eng (1498-1573).
   
Eastern Grove Inscribed by Wang Ch'ung
  Ch'iu Ying (ca. 1494-1552), Ming Dynasty
Handscroll, ink and color on paper, 27.8 x 84 cm

"Garden Dwelling" is a painting of a scene from the "Garden of Awkward Governance" built by Wang Hsien-ch'en (Ching-chih) in his hometown of Soochow in 1509. In 1532, the young poet Wang Ch'ung (1494-1533) wrote two verses of "Poetry on Garden Dwelling" for Wang Hsien-ch'en, which were inscribed on the endpiece to this painting, and he also wrote that "the fine artist Ch'iu Shih-fu (Ying) painted a small handscroll". Actually, there are probably two versions of "Garden Dwelling". The other version was recorded in "Catalogue of Painting and Calligraphy Seen in Wu-yüeh", written by Lu Shih-hua (1714-1779) in the Ch'ing dynasty. The main building in the National Palace Museum version of "Garden Dwelling" bears a mistake in painting the roof of the building, which might be the reason why the artist did another version (that is, the Wu-yüeh version mentioned by Lu), but still kept this one.



Yang Wei-chen, a native of Kuei-chi in Chekiang, went by a variety of names, including the style name Lien-fu and sobriquet T'ieh-yai ("Iron Cliff"). Later, because he enjoyed playing an iron flute, he also took the sobriquet "Taoist of the Iron Flute (T'ieh-ti tao-jen)" and called himself Pao-i lao-jen. In the T'ai-ting era (1324-1327) of the Yüan dynasty, he served as an official in T'ien-t'ai, and he took part in the compilation and editing of the official histories of the Liao, Chin, and Sung dynasties. He was gifted at prose and especially poetry, which were considered outstanding. His writing stood out so much at the time that it became known as the "Iron Cliff Style". He was also equally talented in painting and calligraphy.

Poetry on the Wan-chieh Hall (leaf 3 from "Album of Works by Yüan Calligraphers")
  Yang Wei-chen (1296-1370), Yüan Dynasty
Album leaf, ink on paper, 27 x 57.1 cm

In the National Palace Museum are two works of Yang Wei-chen's "Poetry on the Wan-chieh Hall" (leaf 3 in "Album of Works by Yüan Calligraphers" and leaf 8 in "Album by Yüan Calligraphers"). The wild cursive script of Yang Wei-chen mirrors in many ways the troubled times of the late Yüan dynasty, when this work was calligraphed at the age of 65. Yang then had resided in Sungkiang for several years, and he often associated with friends and disciples in his studio, drinking wine and tasting tea as they experimented with new brushes and fine ink in painting and calligraphy. Here in leaf 3 from "Album of Works by Yüan Calligraphers", poetry was written using imperial ink of the K'uei-chang Pavilion that had been bestowed upon Yang; the ink is especially black and evidently different from ordinary ones. His brushwork also dashes about with great maturity and steadiness.
   
Poetry on the Wan-chieh Hall (leaf 8 from "Album by Yüan Calligraphers")
  Attributed to Yang Wei-chen (1296-1370), Yüan Dynasty
Album leaf, ink on paper, 27.2 x 48.2 cm

However, in the copy shown here (leaf 8 from "Album by Yüan Calligraphers"), the characters are slightly smaller and the structure of dots and strokes, though similar, does not have the same fluidity as in the original.




Tracing the Orchid Pavilion Preface
  Lu Chi-shan (fl. latter part of 14th c.), Yüan Dynasty
Album leaves, ink on paper, 24.5 x 12.1 cm

Lu Chi-shan, a native of Fu-li in Kiangsu, went by the style name Chi-chih and the sobriquet Hsüan-su. He was once a follower of Chao Meng-fu (1254-1322), from whom he learned the technique of copying in double outlines filled with ink.
   
Tracing of the Orchid Pavilion Preface (rubbing)
  Feng Ch'eng-su (fl. 7th c.), T'ang Dynasty
Album leaves, ink on paper, 30 x 17.3 cm
Album Three from "Eight-column Modelbook of the Orchid Pavilion Preface"

 

One of the methods of reproducing calligraphy is called "double outlines filled with ink". In this technique, semi-translucent paper is placed over the calligraphy and then the outlines of the dots and strokes are traced with a fine brush, which are then delicately filled with ink.

In Lu Chi-shan's work, he used a "Hopeh rat’s-hair" brush to make a tracing of "double outlines filled with ink" of a T'ang dynasty copy of the "Orchid Pavilion Preface” in the collection of his elder brother. This northern version by Lu and a precise copy by Feng Ch'eng-su, the finest among surviving T'ang copies, are considered to be the extant versions closest to the original "Orchid Pavilion Preface." Comparing Lu's copy with the third work in "Eight-column Modelbook of the Orchid Pavilion Preface"(Feng Ch'eng-su's copy of the "Orchid Pavilion Preface" re-carved later in the Ch'ien-lung reign [1736-1795] during the Ch'ing dynasty), the means of production is somewhat different. However, both preserve to varying degrees the appearance of the original, the only obvious difference lying in a few corrections to the characters. Furthermore, such details as the bifurcation of the last stroke in the character "ch'ün 羣", the wispy traces in "mao 茂", and the bearing of the character "wei 為" all reflect the common stylistic origins of the two works.

 
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