Ten Thousand Li up the Yangtze
Post #974 • March 21, 2007, 9:53 AM • 11 Comments
Boston—Wan-go Weng, scion of six generations of ardent collectors, presently 88 years old and living in New Hampshire, was on hand yesterday to comment upon this handscroll. The Chinese gallery at the MFA has been updated by Tomomi Itakura to include a huge display case, which holds this piece, and they could still only get about two-thirds of its 53-foot length open. But according to Weng, it's open to the exciting part, depicting a rugged cluster of riverbanks and islands, populated with pavillions and busy oarsmen, all rendered with economical brushstrokes and subtle additions of mineral pigment.
Weng has the diaries of his great-great-grandfather, Weng Tonghe, who wrote that his dealer set the initial price on this scroll at 1000 taels of silver. He countered at 300, they settled on 400, and then Tonghe had to explain to one of his concubines that they were not, after all, going to be moving into a new house that year. The collection has seen a storied history since then, including its removal to America a couple of months before the founding of the PRC, and much of it is on display for the first time to the public. Hao Sheng, newly minted Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art at the MFA, cleared the Japanese galleries for the occasion, and filled them with one ringer after another. We'll start with this one.