Mariusz Sosabowski's Thoughts

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559).Wen Cheng-ming, a native of Soochow, was gifted in the scholarly arts of poetry, prose, calligraphy and painting. A student of Shen Chou, he excelled at both painting and calligraphy, becoming one of the Four Great Masters of the Ming. Living to an old age and venerated by many, his influence was widespread. Many family members and students followed in his style, solidifying the formation of the Wu School of painting.

      The trunk of an ancient cypress tree twists and turns at the bottom of this painting as two pines shoot straight up from behind and dominate the foreground. A stone cliff serves as a backdrop that fills the background, dense and formidable. It seems as if there is no space to spare in this composition. From some place far above the water is a cascade that unifies the center of this work.

      This was painted in the winter of 1549 at the lofty age of 79. Like the force and grandeur of the landscape he has rendered here, the use of brush is also powerful and spirit (this being despite his age). This work ranks as one of Wen Chen-ming's greatest surviving masterpieces.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      The rim of this high-stemmed bowl is wide and flaring, and the wall of the body is curved. The stem is thin and tall, being slightly wider at the bottom than at the top. The entire piece is covered with a creamy glaze, the exterior of which has ash white specks and is covered with clear crackle lines. The dark crackling has a touch of brown, which is a glaze feature of surviving Ko wares known as "gold threads and iron lines." The glaze at the mouth is darker with brown coloring. Inside the tall stem, the glaze is slightly greenish, making the outlines even more discernible. The cut rim base is unglazed, revealing the dark color of the biscuit. Ko ware is a kind of light colored celadon with crackling often in distinct pieces, hence the name "broken ware." Many believe that this was done in imitation of Kuan (official) wares and perhaps produced in the Longquan kilns. However, it was not until the late Yuan dynasty that documents record the name of this ware, perhaps indicating this to be the golden age of its production. High-stemmed cups and bowls were produced in large quantities during the Yuan dynasty. With a tall and slender stem, such vessels are easy to pick up. A high-stemmed blue-and-white cup was excavated from a pit at Gao'an in Jiangxi, and the verse inscribed on it suggests its use for consuming alcoholic beverages. Judging from woodblock prints, such foods as fruit and buns were placed on a table in this type of high-stemmed bowl shown here. Some prints also show attendants holding fruit in such high-stemmed bowls. A larger number of high-stemmed bowls have been excavated from Yuan dynasty tombs and pits, and this celadon with glaze in the color scheme of traditional Longquan and Kuan wares from the Song dynasty (960-1279) unexpectedly became a vessel type adopted and produced by the Yuan dynasty Mongols, who were originally nomadic people. This shows that external habits of using vessels in the Yuan dynasty had rapidly become fashionable among the Mongols, and it would also later influence and become an important vessel shape among the official wares of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) that followed.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      This ten-lobed lotus bowl has gently curved sides, a subtly flaring rim, smooth transition from one petal lobe to the next, and a relatively tall ring foot. The blue-green glaze, from rim to the base, is uniformly thin and opaque, with fine crackling. During firing, this piece was supported by five tiny points underneath the ring foot, and these are the only parts of the body not covered by the glaze. The unglazed ceramic body is grayish-yellow in color.
      Source: National Palce Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      In the period from 1705 to 1712, during the Lamgxo reign, Lang Tingji, the Governor of Jiangsi, was ordered to go to Jingdezhen kilns factory and manage the firing of ceramics at the imperial kiln works. Among the porcelains produced there was a red-glazed vessel in imitation of one that goes back to the Xuande reign (1426-1435) in the Ming dynasty. Its strikingly beautiful color is especially attractive. Since Lang Tingji oversaw the production of ceramics there, it became known as "Lang-ware Red." The shape of this vessel is similar to the purification vase seen held in the hand of the Buddhist figure Guanyin, which is why it is also known as a Guanyi tsun-vase. The irregular shedding of the glaze at the mouth here is typical of the style of Lang-ware red.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      This mallet-shaped vase, with its tray-shaped mouth and straight neck and body, exhibits a definite two-piece design. The neck has two handles in the shape of phoenixes or dragons in a style that emerged in the early Song dynasty. The simple lines provided by the straight sides of both the neck and the body give the piece an unaffected feel, but also represent the perfect unity of practicality and stability. The partially three-dimensional modelled phoenix handles lead the eyes to the tray-shaped mouth above them, with its slightly protruding outer rim and lustrous surface where the glaze has accumulated, giving the mouth a stately, majestic appearance. This particular design, in all sizes, was used in the periods beginning from the Song to the early Ming dynasties, but it was during the Song dynasty that it reached the heights of beauty of design and color of glaze.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      First leaf from the album "Li-tai hua-fu chi-ts'e"

      In this painting, a scholar is shown seated on a lounge bed in deep thought. He holds a brush as if taking a rest from his studies or as is about ready to write something. At his side, a servant is pouring wine. Behind is a screen upon which is painted a sandy shore and waterfowl. Hung over the painting is a portrait of the scholar himself, making this work an interesting "painting within a painting" and also a "double portrait." Several objects are displayed in this setting, including a low table, upon which is placed lute, chessboard, calligraphy, paintings, and various antique vessels. These symbolized the status and traditional leisure activities of the scholar in traditional China starting from the Sung dynasty. Though perhaps meant to evoke the image of China's sage-calligrapher Wang Hsi-chih (ca. 303-ca. 361), in the Southern Sung (1127-1279), it was already popular to "burn incense, drink tea, hang paintings, arrange flowers" and engage in other such refined activities. If so, then this custom may have begun as early as the late Northern Sung.

      The lines in this painting are delicate and fluid, forming a fine and descriptive style. The screen painting of birds and flowers is unusual here, since most such "paintings within a painting" include landscapes instead. This work not only reflects the popularity of reeds and waterfowl in the late Northern Sung, but also the style popular in the reign of Emperor Hui-tsung. (r. 1101-1125). This work was once in the collections of Hui-tsung and Kao-tsung of the Sung as well as Kao-tsung of the Ch'ing (r. 1736-1795), who once commissioned the court artist Yao Wen-han to compose a similar version representing him as the scholar here.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Fan K'uan, a native of Hua-yuan (modern Yao-hsien) in Shensi province, often traveled the area between the capital and Loyang. Although he was known for his magnanimous character, straightforward personality, and fondness of drink and the Tao, he is famous now for his landscape painting. In his early study of painting, he followed the style of the Shantung artist Li Ch'eng (919-967). Later, however, he came to realize that if he really wanted to portray the land, he had to take Nature as his teacher rather than other artists or their works. After all, a personal landscape exists in nature and in the mind. Fan K'uan thereupon went to Mt. Hua and secluded himself among the forests and mountains, devoting himself to observing the effects of atmospheric, weather, and seasonal changes on the scenery. Contemporaries thereupon praised him for being able to commune with the mountains. This masterpiece is a testament to his skills and ideas in landscape painting.

      The clusters of vegetation at the top of the tall mountain here are actually distant forests clinging to a precarious perches. Running along the central axis of the scroll, the central mountain dominates the scene in a classic example of Northern Sung monumental landscape painting. The rooftops of a building complex stand out in the right middleground. By the cluster of rocks in the right foreground is a path on which a mule train makes its way. A cascade as slender as silk falls from the heights above, culminating in the stream rushing down in eddies towards the foreground. From near to far, Fan K'uan has described with realistic detail the solemn grandeur of a majestic landscape. Fan K'uan rendered the mountains and slopes with jagged outline strokes and filled them with brush dabs resembling raindrops--techniques that highlight the monumental and eternal features of the mountains. To the right of the mule train, among the leaves, is the signature of Fan K'uan, a final touch by an artist to epitomize the insignificance of humans (including himself) compared to Nature.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      The compound clan symbol "Ya-ch'in" is an insignia found on both bronze tsun vessels and seals.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, witnessed many regional differences in language, writing, and transportation resulting from the different states from which they came, so he took to the task of creating a unified system for the country. For example, he promulgated the official production of measures and weights as well as bronze vessels, creating a single system. He also forbid the writing of the Six States, using the "Cangjie" as the standard for Qin writing. Qin officials also became teachers in Qin writing.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Added underneath the kuei vessel here is a square base, thereby adding to the height of the vessel. The four large ear-like handles and hanging earring-shaped ornaments are the most important innovations to the kuei vessel type in the early Zhou period.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Wang Meng (style name Shu-ming; sobriquet Huang-ho shan-ch'iao, Hsiang-kuang chu-shih), a native of Wu-hsing (modern Hu-chou, Chekiang), was a grandson of the famous artist Chao Meng-fu (1254-1322). In the early Ming, Wang Meng was implicated in the case of Hu Wei-yung and subsequently died in prison. His painting followed the styles of Wang Wei (701-761), Tung Yuan (fl. first half of the 10th c.), and Chu-jan (10th c.), establishing a style of his own and becoming one of the Four Great Masters of the Yuan along with Huang Kung-wang (1269-1354), Wu Chen (1280-1354), and Ni Tsan (1301-1374).

      This painting represents scenery around the Forest Chamber Grotto at Lake T'ai. The fascinating grotto, layers of twisting landscape forms, dense trees, scattered buildings, and waves fill the surface of the painting, presenting a bold interpretation that goes beyond the appearance of natural scenery. The composition is so dense that it appears almost claustrophobic. However, Wang Meng cleverly manipulated areas of form and void to create a visual passage in the upper right corner. Thus, the view extends into the background and opens the composition to prevent a closed atmosphere. Wang used "ox-tail" texture strokes to delineate the landscape forms and long "hemp-fiber" strokes for the tree trunks. Combined with the dense "moss" dots, the brushwork is notable for its variety and finesse. Layers of ink washes were also added to create a distinction between light and dark. Finally, Wang Meng used touches of ochre and red to provide this painting with an aura of autumn.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      With two round vessels conjoined together, this is known as a "Double-union (shuang-yuan) Treasure Chest." The surface was applied with two kinds of colored lacquer. The bottom of the box is dark yellow in color, while the top is in bright red. When carved, it gives the decoration a dual-color scheme. The panels on the surface are carved in relief with images of tribute, while the inside of the object is coated in dark red lacquer, with flowers painted in gold pigment. The interior of the foot of the vessel is also painted in dark red lacquer, bearing inscriptions engraved and filled with gold pigment that reads "Double-union Treasure Chest" and "Made in the Qianlong Reign of the Great Qing Dynasty."
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Highlighted against a backdrop of decoration in two dense levels of gold workmanship on a gilt box are flowers, a character for longevity (shou), and a bat. The champleve enamelware is lustrous and colorful. This technique of selectively firing filled enamelware glazes is also commonly known as "selective blue" or "fired blue." The exquisite and dense layers of the gold filament decoration on the box have been highlighted with the interspersed enamelware blue glaze, making for a brilliant and eye-dazzling piece.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      In the late 17th century, Western snuff and snuff containers entered China. At its peak, various Western countries and the Vatican in Rome often presented snuff and snuff containers as gifts to the court. Since snuff boxes were not ideal containers for snuff, people at the time adapted and used small-mouthed jars originally used in the Ming dynasty for medicine. This is the format of the snuff bottle that became the one with which we are now familiar. The stopper for the opening of the bottle was made from cork, into which was inserted a small long-handled spoon. This was used to scoop out the snuff and either place it into a small dish or in one's palm so that it could be pinched and placed in the nose. In chapter 25 of "Dream of the Red Chamber," there is a part where Qing Wen falls ill, suffering from headaches and a stuffy nose. UsingJia Baoyu's snuff, Qing Wen's nasal congestion is thereby cleared. In the Qing dynasty, with the growing popularity of snuff, snuff bottles became quite common. In the High Qing period, they were made from all sorts of fine materials. In the Jiaqing reign (1796-1820), a major innovation in the production of snuff bottles was made, in which the inside of the bottles could be painted. Painting the inside of a small snuff bottle, with its very restricted opening, is presumably very difficult to accomplish. Corundum sand and small bearings are first placed in the bottle and shaken to make the surface inside slightly rough, which makes it easier for the paint to stick. Then a specially curved fine brush is inserted into the rim less than half a centimeter to paint the interior of the bottle. This bottle portrays a rustic scene with figures and buildings finely painted, with the mountains even having the effect of shading. On one side near the neck is the craftsman's signature that reads, "Painted in the winter month and made by Zhou Leyuan." This snuff bottle is from the former Qing court collection, and Zhou Leyuan was active in the late 19th century. Thus, this bottle is a local work that was presented as tribute to the court in the late 19th century.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Enamelware of the Yongzheng reign followed that of the Kangxi reign and raised to greater heights, characterized mainly by its panels in a full composition, traditional bird-and-flower painting as subject matter, colorful background, and inscriptions in panels of auspicious shapes. The body of this piece is semi-translucent white glass, its shape like that of a bamboo segment. The greenish yellow base is rendered with green bamboo and a spider, much in the elegant manner of a literati painting. The three knots of the bamboo segment here have even been colored with dots to give it an exceptionally realistic feel. The bottle includes a colorful enamelware bronze spoon handle with two butterflies along with an ivory spoon. The butterflies stand out against the dark background and give the piece even more opulence and liveliness, the golden rim further accentuating it. At the bottom is a panel against the background in an auspicious form for the inscription--spirit fungi. The inscription in red regular script against a white background reads "Made in the Yongzheng reign." This snuff bottle testifies to the features of Yongzheng wares mentioned above and therefore is quite important and precious. In 1733, archives from the Imperial Bureau of Manufacture mention the production in the glassware workshop of a "bamboo bottle with painted enamelware on white glass," which may in fact be the work seen here.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Kuan-yin (known in Sanskrit as Avalokitesvara) is the bodhisattva of mercy and compassion in Buddhism. A common figure in Buddhist art, the representation here differs from the one with one head and two arms often seen. Here, the head of the figure has 26 bodhisattva heads and one Buddha head. In the palm of each of the thousand hands is an eye, hence the name of this work. This type of Kuan-yin represents an important form in esoteric Buddhism.

      Kuan-yin solemnly stands amid waves on top of a lotus pedestal supported by four Heavenly Kings. On either side are bodhisattva attendants, above are seated Buddhas on auspicious clouds, and below are reverent Eight Deva Kings in two rows. Kuan-yin here bears a moustache, but also has an elegant face and delicate figure, clearly revealing the feminine characteristics in the deity's eventual transformation as the Goddess of Mercy. The painting is elegant colored and the details of the jewelry have been rendered with exceptional finesse. The soft and flowing drapery lines are features of the Southern Sung style of Buddhist art that was transmitted to Japan, making this an important masterpiece of Southern Sung Buddhist painting.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      The "ch'in," or zither, is an ancient Chinese stringed instrument. Its actual appearance has changed over the centuries, and there are also stylistic differences observable in "ch'in" made from different locations and makers in China. This particular instrument is in the "liang-chu," or "continuous pearl," style, and is covered in a black lacquer finish exhibiting a dense network of crackle. The inlaid harmonic markers, tuning pegs, and feet are all jade, and are carved in very fine Chinese characters in seal script. The "dragon pool" for the sound chamber is round, whereas the "phoenix pond" near the end of the instrument is rectangular in shape. There are two Chinese characters, "ch'un lei" (literally, "spring thunder"), carved in cursive script on the underside of the neck, and Chinese phrases, alluding to the quality of the tone and harmonics of the instrument, to the left and right of the "dragon pool," this time in standard script, together with an inscribed colophon seal. Below the dragon pool is what appears to be a large square seal, but it is covered in black lacquer and difficult to make out. The characters "ch'un lei" refer to the name of a famous zither dating back to the Tang dynasty, are said to have been made by the master instrument craftsman Lei Wei. According to the "Ch'ing-pi ts'ang," written in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the Ch'un Lei was kept in the Hall of a Hundred Zithers in the Hsuan-ho Palace during the late Northern Sung dynasty (960-1126), where it was the pride of the palace. After that, it came into the possession of Emperor Zhangzong of the Qing dynasty. When the emperor passed away, the zither was buried with him, but retrieved 18 years later. Its condition had not suffered in the slightest, and it was returned to its rightful place as the emperor of zithers. Extant examples of zithers dating to the Tang dynasty are extremely valuable and rare. In modern times, this particular instrument has found itself in the collections of He Guanwu, Wang Jingwu, and Zhang Daqian, among others. It can still be played, and zither players who strike its strings even today allude to the depth and beauty of its tone, without exception.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      Chen Zuzhang, originally from Guandong, had already entered the Imperial Bureau of Manufacture in the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). In 1737, he followed the natural shape of an olive pit to carve a small boat. On the boat are eight figures, each of which is animated and expressive in an individual manner. What is most fascinating is that the entire text of Su Shi's "Latter Ode on the Red Cliff," including more than 300 characters and upon which this work is based, is engraved with exquisite detail on the bottom of the boat, testifying to the heavenly craftsmanship of the artist.
      Source: National Palce Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      This piece of black pottery has a body in the shape of a silkworm cocoon. The outer surface of the vessel is decorated with multiple sets of parallel lines, in between which are engraved ninety characters of a poem written by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795). The vessel was originally used for storing alcoholic beverages.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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      Mariusz Sosabowski (238 followers)

      This unusual vessel consists of five conjoined vases of the same shape and size circling around a central main vase, forming a single complete vase. The cross-section of the vessel indicates that the interior of the six vases is joined together, with only the slender necks helping to exaggerate their individuality. Of particular note is the evenness of the height of the five surrounding vases and the slightly taller central vase, appropriately emphasizing it as a work composed of six vases joined together. Each neck is decorated with a fine ring, but the bodies are otherwise undecorated. The surface is covered with a glaze in the color of tea dust, the hue becoming slightly deeper where it gathered and thickened. The places where the glaze is thinner appears yellowish-green in color. The bottom of this vessel is engraved with a six-character inscription in seal script that reads, "Made in the Qianlong Reign of the Great Qing Dynasty." Multiple paired and quadruple conjoined vases had already appeared among official wares of the Yongzheng reign (1722-1735), but in the Qianlong reign, this form was developed even further, creating a great variety of new vase combinations that fused both advances in ceramic technology with the imagination of craftsmen. Indeed, a cross-section of this vase would show just how intricate the combination of forms is. The main vase form, before being fired, would have holes cut out for the other five vases, which were then seamlessly added to the form and then fired. The sizes of the five subsidiary vases are almost exactly the same, a very difficult feat, and they are matched perfectly onto the main vessel form. Such precision in ceramic design and technique are a feature of official wares of the Qianlong reign.
      Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei

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