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A VERY RARE KESI CALLIGRAPHY PANEL
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
A VERY RARE KESI CALLIGRAPHY PANEL

QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)

Details
A VERY RARE KESI CALLIGRAPHY PANEL
Qianlong period (1736-1795)
The rectangular panel finely woven to imitate the calligraphy of Dong Qichang's xingshu, running script, picked out in black, the top right-hand corner woven with a three-character seal mark, Su Shang Zhai, in red within a rectangular frame, ending with the signature Qichang, followed by two seals in red, Dong Qi Chang, and Taishi Shi
45½ x 18 5/8in. (115.5 x 47.2cm.), brocade mount
Provenance
J.T. Tai.

Lot Essay

The well-known Ming dynasty scholar-official, Dong Qichang (1555-1636), was much respected for his calligraphic style. A similar 18th century kesi depicting Dong's work, woven in a handscroll format, is illustrated by C. Brown, Weaving China's Past: The Amy S. Clague Collection of Chinese Textiles, Phoenix Art Museum, 2000, p. 114, no. 18; and also partially illustrated by the author in Orientations, February 2000, vol. 31, no. 2, p. 42, fig. 14. The Clague kesi handscroll replicates not only Dong Qichang's distinctive personal style of calligraphy but also his endeavor to copy the writing style of the famous four masters of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126). To emulate calligraphic styles of the masters was the classic tradition of learning from what was considered as a standard model; and Qianlong was known to have frequently copied the styles of revered past masters, among whom Dong Qichang's work was a particular favorite, op. cit., 2000, p. 115.

The present example is a remarkable example of the exacting skill employed in replicating exquisite brushstrokes of calligraphy woven with silk. The weaving process had to be exact to emulate the fluidity of the strokes in order to produce a work as if the painter had written directly onto the silk's surface. Particular attention has also been given to the facsimile of the artist's seals. The text begins with the seal Su Shang Zhai, 'Studio of Simple Appreciation', and terminates with a seal of Dong Qichang's name and a designation, Taishi Shi. The main text reads:

Yanfu zuo xue zan yun: zi qing yi hua, sheng qi yi fei, yu xiang neng xian ji jie cheng hui.

It may be translated as:

'Yanfu who wrote of snow praises: it changes with the brightness of color, falls like multiple breath, gathers in its freshness, immediately clean in its complete radiance'.

The name Yanfu appears to be the designation of an unidentified writer.

Compare a similar example of kesi calligraphy with the seals arranged in the same format and the running script styled after the Song dynasty artist, Mi Fu (1051-1107), in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Kesi, Japan, 1970, no. 44, and catalogued with a Song dynasty date. For kesi examples woven to form standard script, kaishu, see a Qianlong album of scenes of West Lake, in the Clague collection, illustrated by C. Brown, op. cit., pp. 108-113, no. 17.
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