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Zhang Daqian 張大千 on the “Fangche tu” 紡車圖 (Spinning Wheel) attributed to Wang Juzheng 王居正 (1087-1151)


Screenshot from the website of the Palace Museum, Beijing

(For an overview of the transmission of the painting and a high-quality digitalisation, see:


“Fangche tu” 紡車圖 (The Spinning Wheel), traditionally attributed to Wang Juzheng 王居正 (1087-1151)


Inscription:

居正此圖,儼然唐畫風格。與顧閎中夜宴圖可方駕也。歷見《書畫舫》、《珊瑚網》、《式古堂》諸家著錄。清末歸安陸心源。子昂二跋已失,雖然,櫝亡珠存,不無遺憾,終不失為珍寶也。大千居士爰。


This painting by Juzheng clearly [follows] the style of Tang paintings and is comparable to “The Night Revels of Han Xizai” by Gu Hongzhong [937-975].[1] It has been recorded in the Shuhua fang,[2] Shanhu wang,[3] and Shigu tang.[4] Towards the end of the Qing dynasty, it went into Lu Xinyuan’s [1838-1894][5] collection. The two colophons by Ziang [=Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫, 1254-1322] have been lost. Nevertheless, the casket is missing but the jewel remains.[6] Despite this misfortune, [it is] still a precious treasure.

Lay Buddhist [Zhang] Daqian, Yuan [7]


Notes:

Traditionally attributed to Wang Juzheng, this painting showcases excellent skills in representing daily activities of common people in early genre painting. The artist draws all the details meticulously, such as the structure of the spinning wheel, the texture and knots of the wood, and the pale eyebrows of the little dog. Given the exceptional skills reflected here, it is curious that Wang Juzheng has remained a relatively humble figure in the discourse of Chinese art history. In fact, the origin of this painting is subject to dispute, and proposed dating ranges from the Northern Song [960-1279] to late Ming [1368-1644].


On the current handscroll housed in the Palace Museum, Beijing, the painting is mounted together with colophons by Zhang Daqian, Liu Yi 劉繹 (1796-1878), and Lu Xinyuan 陸心源 (1838-1894), all providing information about the transmission of this work. Among the texts attached to the end of the painting, we can actually find two colophons attributed to the eminent artist Zhao Mengfu attached to towards the end of the handscroll, but they are likely to have come from the deluge of fakes.[8] However, this painting successfully draws the viewer into the scene with a remarkable realistic approach and is indeed an artistic gem even without the colophon of the renowned calligrapher, as Zhang Daqian notes.



[1] For a high-quality digitalisation of this masterpiece, see https://en.dpm.org.cn/collections/collections/2009-09-24/849.html. [2] This refers to the Qinghe shuhua fang 清河書畫舫 (Pleasure Boat of Calligraphy and Paintings of Qinghe) by Zhang Chou 張醜 (1577-1643). [3] The Shanhu wang 珊瑚網 (Coral Net) is an annotated catalogue of calligraphy and paintings compiled by Wang Keyu 汪珂玉 (b. 1587) in 1643. [4] This refers to the Shigu tang shuhua huikao 式古堂書畫彙考 (Collective Investigations of the Modelling-Antiquity Hall on Calligraphy and Paintings) by Bian Yongyu 卞永譽 (1645-1712). [5] Lu Xinyuan was one of the four most eminent book collectors during the Qing dynasty. [6] This phrase alludes to a story about someone who makes a luxurious casket to house the pearl(s) he wants to sell. In the end, a customer buys the casket and returns the pearl(s). See Hanfeizi 韓非子https://ctext.org/hanfeizi/wai-chu-shuo-zuo-shang (passage 10). [7] Yuan 爰 is another personal name of Zhang Daqian 張大千 (1899-1983). [8] For a detailed analysis of dubious points in the two colophons attributed to Zhao Mengfu, see Huang Xiaofeng 黃小峰, “Bianzhi jiaguo lixiang de sixian Fangche tu xintan” 編織家國理想的絲線: 《紡車圖》新探, Gugong bowuyuan yuankan 故宮博物院院刊 2020.11, 75-77. This article also offers a thorough analysis of the “Fangche tu” from various angles, including spinning technology, social implication and symbolism. In the end, the author associates it with the popular weaving motif that emerged during the Yuan dynasty and suggests that the artist’s ultimate objective is to represent a harmonious scene of collaborative work within a family instead of offering a realistic depiction of the daily life in the countryside.

 

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