Some Art Gossip

We have been going through some serious discussions with the art supplies lately, today let us do some gossiping instead! So, in the oriental art world there was an Emperor who loved collecting artworks, and then made sure everybody knew that he had ever owned such arts. This Emperor’s name is Qian Long, one of the most famous Qing Dynasty rulers (1711-1799). This Emperor enjoyed a very long and happy life, he also lead the nation through a glorious historical period. However, if I were to gossip about him, there are also plenty to say, starting from his artistic taste. Remember this piece of painting below? The largest seals all belonged to this Emperor!

Song Hui Zong

These seals blow all belonged to the Emperor Qian Long, and they are often seen in many of the most precious national art treasures. Other than his seals, this is the Emperor who also had been writing poems and other comments over the historical masterpieces. The poem in the painting above right in the middle was his masterpiece, as well as the disproportional giant characters written on top.

Seals of Emperor Qian Long, photo from the internet

In the best museums world wide display quite a lot of precious Chinese painting and calligraphy pieces, some authentic, some copies from an early period, which is also very precious. This piece of calligraphy below was written by the most important calligraphy master, Wang Xi Zhi (330-361), his artworks served as the inspiration throughout history, influencing generations of artists to come, also dwarfing millions of giants in the Chinese calligraphy. The piece was one of Wang Xi Zhi’s later works, there are historical records marking its change of hands each time, all the way down from the Tang Dynasty, and now it is resting peacefully in the Forbidden City Museum of Taiwan. The Emperor Qian Long must have been thrilled to have added this masterpiece to his collection, which resulted in the worst “skin condition” of this artwork – see all those seals in the image below? Guess who added them? What is more, there is a gigantic character “神” (godly) written right in the middle of the artwork, also by the hands of Qian Long. He must have been very confident about his calligraphy, but very few dare making such direct comparison with the master of calligraphy. Well, confident yes, writing-wise, alas, you decide.

Wang Xi Zhi

It is not only calligraphy masterpieces that suffered, there are also may paintings that suffered worse. It almost feels that the historical arts inspired the Emperor to keep a journal – the various chunks of writings below were pretty much all from the hands of Qian Long, who decided to keep the journal directly on these artworks! The second image below was the worst of them all – we can find 55 chunks of remarks all over its body – poor painting! Actually there may yet be some hope, I read recently that new evidences are questioning the authenticity of this piece, another almost identical piece that is resting quietly in the Forbidden City Museum may have been the authentic one all along! This one may have been a very close replica.

Zhao Meng Fu
Huang Gong Wang
Zhao Meng Fu

Other than having questionable taste in adding comments over artworks, this Emperor encouraged the craftsmen to make quite some “interesting” ceramic wares too. How about I keep that for another post when the gossiping inspiration hits in the coming days?

Emperor Qian Long

Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!

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