05.08.2014

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As collectors, dealers, and curators across the world make plans to attend the Spring 1999 a€?Asia Weeka€? in New York, they will notice that for the first time in recent memory neither Sothebya€™s nor Christiea€™s has scheduled a specialized auction of Chinese paintings. In my former position as Director of the Chinese Painting Department at Sothebya€™s I devoted much time and energy and more than a decade of my life to establish and maintain New York as a major center of the international Chinese painting market. I remember clearly the first time I set foot in the old Sotheby Parke Bernet on Madison Avenue.
The sale was held on November 2, 1979 and was a watershed event for the market for Chinese paintings in America, as well as the beginning of my career as a Chinese art dealer.
With the support of James Lally, then head of the Chinese Works of Art Department, we introduced a full range of Chinese paintings and calligraphy, including purely decorative works, modern and contemporary paintings, as well as pre-modern Chinese paintings, to a small but enthusiastic American audience, and in doing so helped to establish a legitimate price structure for individual artists and for the various types of anonymous Chinese paintings. In May 1980, Sothebya€™s Hong Kong held its first sale of modern Chinese paintings, with Paula taking responsibility for the offerings. The decade of the 1980s saw the market for Chinese paintings increase exponentially due to a confluence of a number of factors.
In order to accommodate regional tastes, both Sothebya€™s and Christiea€™s adopted, for the most part, the strategy of offering the best 19th and 20th century Chinese paintings in Hong Kong while holding sales of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasty paintings in New York. The most rewarding aspect of working at one of the major auction houses, at least from the standpoint of an expert department, is the ability to discover and make available to the public previously unknown or little-known works of art.
Readera€™s Digest has recently been the subject of many art columns because of the highly successful auction held at Sothebya€™s featuring a significant portion of their corporate holdings of Modern and Contemporary paintings. The international character of the Chinese paintings market encouraged a global approach to marketing, in which Hong Kong and New York auctions complemented rather than competed with one another. Another important work of Yuan dynasty calligraphy appeared in Sothebya€™s New York June 1985 auction of Fine Chinese Paintings. The great majority of works bought and sold at auction are done so anonymously, particularly in a relatively new market such as Chinese paintings. The most exciting collection I ever worked on, however, was perhaps more interesting because of its owner than for its contents, although the collection did contain several masterpieces.
At this time Zhang Xueliang was technically still under house arrest but, as he had already outlived most of his detractors and he posed no threat to the government of the Republic of China, he led a fairly unfettered existence and was even permitted to visit friends and go out to dinner. By the time Zhang Xueliang was finally released from house arrest in 1988, many of his best paintings had already been sold through New York auctions, but he still retained in Taiwan a large number of paintings and calligraphy, including hundreds of fan paintings.
The success of the Dingyuanzhai auction was the culmination of a trend which had begun in the mid-eighties--the dominance of Taiwanese buyers in the Chinese art market. Taiwanese buyers were not a factor in the sale of a 17th century masterpiece six months later at Sothebya€™s. The sale of the Wu Bin handscroll in December 1989, was clearly the highlight of my career at Sothebya€™s. There were many reasons why I resigned from my position at Sothebya€™s in October 1992, after turning down a significant promotion. In 1995 Christiea€™s began producing semi-annual sales of a€?Fine Classical Chinese Paintingsa€? in Hong Kong, based on the presumption that the majority of buyers were in Asia and that holding sales closer to home would allow Christiea€™s to take advantage of the a€?Pacific rima€? economic boom. Yet, in the six years that have passed since my resignation, both Sothebya€™s and Christiea€™s have held auctions in New York and they have continued to offer a number of excellent works.
Nevertheless, there is no lack of interest for Chinese paintings in America, nor is there a lack of understanding and expertise.
As we enter a new year that finds parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, in the midst of the regiona€™s biggest economic decline in decades, we may question the wisdom and timing of Sothebya€™s choice to put all its Chinese painting eggs in one Asian basket. If you would like a printable version of this article in pdf format, please request one by email.
Shadow Skeletons and New Realitiesa€“Guohua and Cultural Identity (Reprinted from Kaikodo Journal VI, October 1997, pp. As the dawn of a new millenium rapidly approaches, modern and contemporary Chinese art is receiving an unprecedented amount of attention throughout Asia and the West. There is now a thriving art market for contemporary Chinese paintings, done in both traditional and Western styles.
As we try to absorb this impressive flood of images and information about 20th century Chinese art we are suddenly encountering, and before we begin to assess the artistic and art-historical merits of these works of art, it is useful to present a brief outline of some of the major issues that have concerned Chinese artists during the last century and identify some of the stylistic trends that have shaped the context in which the art of this period was and is being created.
During the past one hundred years the political, social, and economic systems of China have been transformed on an unprecedented scale. Kanga€™s views represented the prevailing attitude among progressive Chinese intellectuals who associated modernization with Westernization and Westernization with the development of science and technology.
Many artists chose not to abandon completely traditional Chinese painting but tried instead to make adjustments in subject matter or style in order to broaden its appeal and update its appearance, making it more responsive to the perceived needs of contemporary society.
Most critics, including Kang Youwei, advocated a synthesis of Western and Chinese art: a€?if we adhere to the old way without change, Chinese painting will become extinct. Kanga€™s approach was based on a formulation that he and the other a€?self-strengthenersa€? of the unsuccessful 1898 reform movement had advocated as a solution to most of Chinaa€™s ills.
During the first decades of this century, numbers of young painters took up Kanga€™s challenge in earnest.
Although agreeing on the general premise that Chinese painting needed an infusion of Western artistic know-how in order to advance into the modern age, the three leaders of this Westernizing movement, Xu, Liu, and Lin, did not see eye-to-eye on much else. The arguments among these three and their followers as to which foreign models to follow were as vehement as those waged by traditional painters about whether to imitate the Four Wangs (as did Wu Hufan and his students) or Shitao and Bada Shanren (as did Zhang Daqian and his followers). The decades of the 1920s and 1930s were a period of great creativity and artistic experimentation. By the end of the 1930s the future of Chinese art looked promising, albeit somewhat confused.
The politicization of all aspects of the processes of creating, exhibiting, publishing or otherwise disseminating art in the Peoplea€™s Republic of China is discussed in several recent studies and doubtless will continue to be a subject of inquiry for many years to come. Mao Zedong, in his 1942 a€?Talks at the Yana€™an Conference on Literature and Art,a€? had clearly stated his belief that art must serve the people, and that there could not be art for arta€™s sake.
Each individual is born into a culture, and its orientations and basic beliefs shape him and remain deeply rooted in his personality all of his life. LeShan and Margenau are concerned with the inherent limitations of the physical sciences to adequately describe and explain all manner of phenomena, particularly as new scientific discoveries have revealed microcosms and macrocosms for which standard Newtonian assumptions about time and space do not hold true. In Maoist China the art bureaucracy attempted to condition societya€™s perception of reality by strictly limiting the artistsa€™ range of acceptable themes and styles, and by short-circuiting the natural feedback process through the stringent control of all means of criticism. Many early attempts to synthesize guohua techniques and approaches with new a€?revolutionarya€? subject matter failed for precisely this reason. Among all artists, traditional painters had the most difficulty modifying or updating their artistic techniques in order to satisfy the needs of the new society as envisioned by the leaders of the Peoplea€™s Republic. Although the intent of the theoreticians, such as Kang Youwei and Cai Yuanpei, was to modernize Chinaa€™s art following Western models, Xu Beihonga€™s style of academic realism was conservative, perhaps already outdated, by the time it reached China. Western art was of course undergoing its own revolution, reflecting new concepts of reality engendered by Einsteina€™s Theory of Relativity, quantum mechanics, particle physics and other scientific discoveries and philosophical intuitions. It was the Chinese artists working in Taiwan and abroad, including Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Wang Jiqian (C.C. Working outside the constraints of the Maoist regime in relatively free artistic environments, these artists have made great strides in creating a true synthesis of traditional Chinese and modern Western painting styles. The current exhibition presents the work of a new generation of traditional, guohua painters, active in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas. This generation of younger artists grew up at a time in which, when political realities renders questions of cultural identity unavoidable. Even for those who have practiced continuously the discipline of traditional Chinese painting, the period of the 1980s and 1990s seems like a new beginning. One may question the extent to which guohua has progressed in the five decades since the founding of the Peoplea€™s Republic, or for that matter, in the nearly nine decades since the fall of the Qing dynasty, but, given the extent and intensity of the criticism aimed at traditional Chinese painting and everything that it stood for, and with the recent availability of so many other artistic options, it is perhaps surprising that the art form has persisted at all.
In an age of rapid information exchange and an increasingly global popular culture, it is very possible that a truly international style of art, in oils, acrylics or, more likely, some yet-to-be-invented digital medium, will be developed in the 21st century. A multicultural environment will recognize shared cultural values but it will also embrace cultural differences and encourage the preservation and development of traditional art forms.
I discovered a remarkable collection in Germany which yielded a significant number of important works of Chinese painting, calligraphy, and ink rubbings, which were sold off gradually throughout the decade.
Sothebya€™s December 1984 auction of Fine Chinese Paintings included several important works dating from the 13th century to the present.
France was also the source of an intriguing album of ten leaves ascribed to the great Southern Song dynasty painter Ma Yuan sold in December 1986. DESCRIPTION: While some earlier scholars would have labeled these maps as a€?the epitome of medieval European cartographya€?, due to the very ecclesiastical form and content, they were, indeed, an exception in this perioda€™s mapmaking. In his recent book, Body-Worlds, Opinicus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination, Karl Whittington writes that on the 31st of March, 1334, this Italian priest named Opinicus de Canistris fell sick. As mentioned above, Opicinusa€™ drawings survive in two manuscripts, both kept in the Vatican Library in Rome. There is no way of knowing how many other drawings Opicinus completed, and certainly no reason to believe that all or even a majority of his works have survived.
Victoria Morsea€™s 1996 doctoral dissertation for the first time performed a large-scale study in order to demonstrate the logic of Opicinusa€™ works. It was not unusual during the later Middle Ages to bring together the body and the earth in pictorial representations.
The relationship on the page between texts, diagrams, and pictures throughout Opicinusa€™ work is an especially important issue. According to Whittington the captions on most of the drawings seem to interact with them in the following way: Opicinus created the visual material first, usually to address a particular theological question or theme. The elaborate, complex, and beautiful drawings that Opicinus created in the years following his illness and vision are the subject of this monograph.
What we see, then, is an embodied map a€” a picture of the eartha€™s surface that is also a depiction of human bodies.
Opicinusa€™ beliefs and hypotheses about the earthly, the heavenly, and the human are encoded in the very structures of his drawings.
Over half of Opicinusa€™ 80 drawings in the Vaticanus and Palatinus manuscripts include at least part of a portolan chart. Opicinusa€™ body-maps are far more complicated than any of the examples above, and the question of what they mean is more difficult to answer. In a number of drawings, Opicinus used the most basic form of the body-worlds - presumably the one that he describes having received in his 1334 vision. As in all of Opicinusa€™ drawings of the body-worlds, each figure takes on a specific identity, though in this example these identities are complex.
It seems most likely that the figure depicts a sort of hybrid a€” a personification of Christianity, with Christ at its head and its heart, surrounded by elements of the cosmic order.
Its chest is bare (we can see the cloak falling away from the shoulder on the northern coast of France), but the lower roundel covers the place where a breast is often revealed in Opicinusa€™ female European figures. In three folios near the end of the Vaticanus manuscript, Opicinusa€™ cartographic drawings add one more layer of meaning on top of the basic arrangement outlined above: he superimposes a gridded local map of Pavia, his hometown, on top of a single portolan chart.
According to Whittington the precise placement and scale of the two maps is certainly not accidental; the maps have been placed in a precise relation to one another in order to create and explain correspondences between them. In contrast to this relatively simple correspondence, another caption shows how complicated his spatial interpretations could become.
As a final word on this drawing, I want to return to one more visual feature: the form of the local city grid.
In the two previous examples, Opicinus constructed a drawing using only one portolan chart; on fol. This doubling and mirroring of the portolan chart served a specific purpose: as Victoria Morse has argued, it allowed Opicinus to contrast the world as it was seen and known with the possibility of an alternate world converted to a state of grace. Each of the four land-figures bears an emblem on its chest a€” these signify the intention or motivation of each character. On the bottom half of the page, however, similar captions placed on the white chart actually point to cities on that chart, rather than on the one below. Even after all of the figures in the drawing have been identified, its meaning remains elusive. There is one caption on the page that offers a tantalizing comment on its form and content.
This quoted caption outlines the general principle that Opicinus follows in these drawings that employ mirroring or correspondence a€” that the multiplied forms are generators of multiple truths and realities. Many Vaticanus drawings contain more explicit imagery of birth and reproduction; metaphors of birth and rebirth seem to have been one of Opicinusa€™ primary ways of expressing the spiritual transformation that he underwent following his illness of 1334.
The interest in the local ramifications of the pregnancy of the European figure is explored even more closely in two drawings in which Europe is actually pregnant with a tiny map a€” fols. DESCRIPTION: A good example of Protestant theologian Heinrich Buntinga€™s Europa, Europe as a Queen. Sothebya€™s has effectively closed the department in New York, referring prospective sellers to their Hong Kong office. The recent decision by the two leading auction houses to eliminate or significantly reduce sales in New York has prompted me to review briefly the history of Chinese paintings at auction and to reflect upon the current state of the market. It was Autumn of 1979 and I had been approached by Paula Gasparello of the Chinese Works of Art Department to assist in the cataloging of a number of important Ming and Qing dynasty paintings from the estate of Ruth Spelman.
In October our fledgling New York department produced an unprecedented sale of 145 works by living Chinese artists, which featured paintings by Zhang Daqian, Cheng Shifa, Huang Junbi, Li Keran, Wang Jiqian, Li Kuchan, Yu Chengyao, Qian Songyan, Xie Zhiliu, Xu Bangda, and others. In the West, particularly in America, academic interest in pre-modern Chinese painting was at a peak and a number of important museum exhibitions--such as a€?Eight Dynasties of Chinese Painting,a€? organized jointly by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum, Kansas City--provided increased access to an ever-more appreciative public. This allowed for two major sales per year in each location and enabled both buyers and sellers to consolidate their efforts and focus their energies on those works that most interested them. While at Sothebya€™s I had the good fortune to bring to the market quite a few important works of Chinese painting and calligraphy, many with obscure or unexpected provenances.
Because the Readera€™s Digest collection of European paintings was so well known, its appearance on the auction block was accompanied by much fanfare and anticipation, but the art world at large is unaware of the quiet role that the collection played in the development of the Chinese painting market in New York. In addition, collectors and dealers in Hong Kong, taking note of the positive results of the auctions of pre-modern Chinese paintings, began to consign works for sale in New York.
One of the early successes from this consignment was the sale, on June 13, 1984, of an album of twenty-five letters by Song and Yuan dynasty calligraphers).
Expertise and administrative support were shared between the two auction sites, as were salaries and expenses.
Zhao Mengfua€™s 1303 a€?Record of the Repair of the Three Purities Palace at the Temple of the Mysterious and Marvelousa€? (Xuanmiaoguan chongxiu sanqingdian zhiji), a handscroll written in regular script, was consigned by a young Chinese gentleman who had acquired it in France from a French family who knew nothing of its origin or its potential historical or monetary value. The consignor of this set of landscapes was a wealthy Parisian who was a major collector of modern European paintings and was thus well known to the Sothebya€™s Paris office.
Part of the attraction of the process is the element of surprise; one never knows what may turn up in the next sale. I refer to the collection of Zhang Xueliang, known to students of modern Chinese history as the a€?Young Marshall.a€? Zhang is the son of the powerful Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin, who was assassinated in 1928.
An intermediary had brought two fine 18th century paintings into the Sothebya€™s Taipei office. I met him in person for the first time, along with Rita Wong, and for the next ten years we had many opportunities to visit with him and his wife Edith and we shared several meals with them.
In consultation with Rita Wong he made the bold decision to offer the remainder of his collection at public auction in Taipei, using his studio name Dingyuanzhai.
Collectors and dealers from Taiwan were already extremely active in most facets of the market, especially porcelain, jadeite jewelry, and modern paintings.
Both of these paintings, as well as most of the top lots in the sale, were purchased by Taiwanese collectors. Wu Bina€™s a€?Ten Views of a Fantastic Rocka€? is one of the most extraordinary Chinese paintings ever to appear on the auction market.
The Chinese paintings market was strong but just as the demand for paintings and calligraphy was reaching a peak, the availability of good quality paintings had greatly diminished.
To some extent, I was not happy with the way the company was being run and I was dissatisfied with the direction in which both auction houses were heading. The sales were successful but they had the negative effect of competing with New York for both consignments and resources.
Christiea€™s, in particular, has been successful because of major consignments, such as the group of important Song dynasty fan paintings from the collection of Stephen Juncunc. In fact, the level of sophistication among Western buyers (including overseas Chinese) is such that they recognize and demand high quality examples of works by both major and minor artists of all periods.
Exhibitions of works in all media by Chinese artists from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong (once again a part of China after a century of British rule), and overseas have been mounted or are being planned throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States. Auctions of this material are now held on a regular basis in many cities throughout China as well as in New York, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore. Even before the Imperial monarchy that had ruled China for several thousand years was completely overthrown in 1911, the Chinese had begun to assess their inherited traditions and values and to question their very cultural identity. Traditional Chinese painting (guohua)2 especially as practiced after the Song dynasty, was specifically criticized for its lack of realism or naturalism, and the conscious disregard by its practitioners of the harsh realities of contemporary society in favor of a rarefied vision of an ideal Confucian society which had never existed in fact. This colloquialization (to borrow a phrase describing a similar but more far-reaching movement in literature) of Chinese painting is epitomized by the work of the great Qi Baishi (1864-1955), whose colorful depictions of common objects from everyday life enlivened the tradition through the introduction of a colloquial vocabulary of familiar images. Some, like Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) and the Gao brothers (founders of the Lingnan School), traveled to Japan to investigate the process by which Japanese artists were modernizing their native traditions by a selective incorporation of Western techniques and styles. History would note that, at least for the short term, Xu Beihonga€™s academic realism ultimately won out, although more for political and ideological than artistic reasons. Artists were free to work in all media, which they did in an incredible range of styles and with tremendous passion and dedication.
8 Although many questions remain and many individual stories have yet to be recounted, it is clear that one of the casualties of mainland art policy from the 1950s to the 1980s was Chinese traditional painting. During the 1950s Mao began to make good on his promise by revamping the entire system of art education and production. If he moves into a new culture with other orientations and basic beliefs, the two versions of reality are dissonant within him.
The sources from which a field grew remain within it as a shadow skeleton, and they partly define what is real and what is true, what is sense and what is nonsensea€“in short, what is the basic shape or essence of reality. Alternate realities and multiple truths cannot be understood through their physical means alone. In periods when control over the arts was most absolute (during the many anti-rightist campaigns, for example) artists were not only told what subjects to paint but were also given stylistic directives.
Obviously, Western and Chinese painting had very different roots and very different evolutions; they are the products of completely dissimilar world views and emerge from disparate cultural contexts. The repressive policies of the PRC ensured that this type of painting, with some ideological a€?improvements,a€? became the official means of artistic expression. Just when Chinaa€™s artists were mastering a style of painting which they thought was modern, Western artists and critics were rejecting both the style and the cultural construct it represented, and at a time when Western artists such as Picasso, Paul Klee, Mark Toby, and Jackson Pollock were recognizing and embracing non-Western artistic traditions, including Chinese painting and calligraphy, the Chinese themselves were declaring some of these same traditions invalid.
It is thus upon the foundation of their work that the future of guohua is likely to be built. It is true of course that guohua represents only one aspect of Chinese painting, which, in turn, is only one aspect of Chinese art as a whole. Their relationship to the the historical past of China and its traditional values depends to a great extent on where they were raised.
This new generation of artists approaches the tradition with fresh eyes and renewed energy. It has been nearly one hundred years since Kang Youwei issued his challenge to a€?begin a new era by combining Chinese and Western art,a€? and now, a century later, it can be argued that not only have these lofty ideals not been fully attained, but the fundamental questions of artistic and cultural identity remain largely unanswered. It is worth noting, however, that as we enter the 21st century, the global context in which we live is vastly different than the one in which Kang Youwei, Cai Yuanpei or Xu Beihong existed.
As popular culture becomes more global it also becomes more homogenized and the unique characteristics of a particular culture or ethnic group become all the more distinctive and significant. I use the terms guohua and a€?traditional Chinese paintinga€? interchangeably, to refer to work painted with traditional Chinese pigments on traditional paper or silk. Kang Youwei, Travels in Eleven European Countries, quoted in Lawrence Wu, a€?Kang Youwei and the Westernisation of Modern Chinese Art,a€? Orientations (March 1990), pp.
Quoted in Michael Sullivan, Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1966, p. Lawrence Leshan and Henry Margenau, Einsteina€™s Space and Van Gogha€™s Sky: Physical Reality and Beyond, New York, 1982, p.
Opicinus was a minor functionary and scribe at the papal court, which had moved to Avignon some thirty years earlier, and luckily for us he kept a kind of day-book that still survives.
Numerous scholars such as Camille, Kris and Salomon point to Opicinusa€™ a€?frequenta€? self-representation in the drawings.
Medieval mappaemundi often organized the land-forms of the earth around the shape of a crucifix (sometimes even a cruciform body), medieval astrological drawings commonly showed human figures at the center of cosmic and planetary networks, and the concepts of macrocosm and microcosm had been fully developed for a millennium. It is possible, and productive, to partially separate Opicinusa€™ texts from his diagrams and pictures, especially those that represent his body-worlds vision.
Opicinusa€™ works present a conundrum when it comes to audience and reception, since there is no textual or visual evidence that anyone ever actually saw the drawings. Their unusual forms complicate our most basic assumptions about what and how medieval artists could represent. These structures form the core of the drawingsa€™ disorientation and strangeness a€” maps are piled on top of other maps, sometimes transparent and sometimes opaque, in a seemingly endless play of permeability and superimposition. Some drawings contain one chart, others up to four; sometimes the continents and seas are embodied, while other times they are left plain. His drawings are so diverse and disorienting that generalizations about their design or meaning are difficult and often misleading. These drawings depict a single Africa and a single Europe, separated by the Mediterranean Sea. The figure of Africa appears to be a woman; she is labeled Babilon maledicta [cursed Babylon] by the small caption above her forehead.
Captions suggest various identities: Christ, Opicinus, and a female personification of prudence are all indicated.
The face is smooth and beardless (many male figures in Opicinusa€™ work wear beards), and has long, flowing hair. According to Whittington it is mainly a confrontation between two figures: a figure of Babylon (probably representing Islam) and a figure of Christianity. This interplay between the local and the global is not unusual within Opicinusa€™ texts and captions on other drawings, which often comment on the everyday world of his youth and family (we must remember that he made these drawings in Avignon, not Pavia), but the specific visual alignment of parts of Pavia with parts of the Mediterranean region is unique in these three drawings. In the bottom right corner of the page is a caption that reads, a€?Just as the islands of purgatory pay a tax to the Roman Church, so too the Chapel of St. Opicinus seems to say that when any two maps are placed in relation to each other, if they are true empirical representations of Goda€™s created earth, one will find correspondences between them. One interprets the significance of the placement of Opicinusa€™ home parish district, around the Chapel of Saint Mary, delineated with a red outline near Tunisia and Sicily on the lower map.
84v each part of Opicinusa€™ hometown is given multiple interpretations, usually based on its placement on the portolan chart, but other times simply based on etymological connections, family stories, dreams, or coincidence. Certainly the drawing contains multiple levels of reality: it is an allegorical depiction of three body-world characters in contact and dialogue, a depiction of the structural connections between local and regional realities, and a series of interpretive musings about the significance of these connections for Opicinusa€™ own life and family.
As the reader may already have noticed, this grid strongly evokes the rhumb-line grids that were placed over contemporary portolan charts. 61r he uses the skeletons of two portolan charts of the Mediterranean region, which have been rotated and overlapped to form one image. 61r, parts of each of the charts remain intact, while others are distorted or hidden by the overlapping forms.
In this particular example, the map shows the natural world at the bottom and the spiritual world at the top: labels on the drawing indicate that Affrica naturalis ypocrita and Europa naturalis occupy the continents of the smaller chart while Affrica spiritualis and Europa spiritualis talk to each other in the larger chart above. Europa naturalis bears a tarasque (a river demon from the Rhone) and Europa spiritualis contains an image of Christ showing his wounds, his side-wound situated suggestively close to Avignon, where Opicinus was living when he made the drawing. The message itself is simple enough: one must abandon the external senses that lead to sin in order to follow the internal senses to redemption.
58r of the Vaticanus Opicinus combines four small embodied portolan charts to create juxtapositions between the four seasons, the four cardinal directions, and the four states of the soul.
82r, we see many of the principles and techniques of the other drawings pushed to the limits of recognition and interpretability.
On its surface lie two complete portolan outlines that retain the white color of the paper. On the upper half of the page, the brown labels all point out the location of cities on the colored chart, even though all lie on the space of the white chart; they indicate the continued presence of the map below, even when it is obscured by the upper chart.
At the precise center of the drawing, a cruciform shape is formed by the two mirrored shapes of Asia Minor and the Holy Land; Asia Minor forms the two arms, and the land below forms the body of a cruciform vestment. While other drawings seem designed to convey a single allegory or a primary confrontation between figures (which are often reinforced by the particular cartographic forms that Opicinus chose for the drawing), this drawing resists this type of analysis. According to the letter, this is a heretical position, since one species cannot be transformed into another. 84v, there are several depictions (or suggestions) of male genitalia in the Vaticanus manuscript, each of which is unique. 1350), a Pavian who worked at the papal court in Avignon, drew a series of imaginative maps, while acknowledging in a text written between 1334 and 1338 his use of nautical charts. Christiea€™s plans to include a small selection of paintings within their auction of Chinese Works of Art in New York, followed by a larger specialized sale of Chinese Paintings in April in Hong Kong. The results of this auction provided compelling evidence that high quality Chinese paintings, rigorously catalogued, could be sold successfully at auction and demonstrated that there was sufficient institutional and private interest in the United States to warrant serious attention on the part of the auction houses. Many of these artists were unfamiliar to western collectors and few had ever been previously offered at auction. Wong as a specialist in Chinese painting and a mutually beneficial rivalry developed between the two houses.
In the Asia--especially Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore--economic prosperity, political stability, and increased education created an environment conducive to collecting art. In cooperation with their regional offices and representatives throughout the United States and abroad, the auction houses took advantage of their broad networks of contacts to locate potential sellers and to attract potential buyers.
In June of 1982, when the Chinese painting department was struggling to gain credibility and recognition, Sotheby Parke Bernet offered for sale an extremely important painting by the most significant living Chinese painter of the time, Zhang Daqian. By 1984 the increased supply of good works, coupled with evidence of a modest but increasing demand internationally, justified semi-annual specialized sales of Chinese paintings and calligraphy accompanied by the publication of separate catalogues.


Included among the leaves were examples of writing by the Song dynasty writers Liu Wuyan, Wang Sheng, Wu Ju, and Fan Chengda, and the Yuan dynasty calligraphers Zhao Mengfu, Xianyu Shu , Qiu Yuan, Zhang Yu, and Ni Zan. Signed Hengshan Wen Bi, and inscribed with a date corresponding to October 30, 1499, this short handscroll was accompanied by a most impressive series of colophons written by many of the luminaries of late 15th-early 16th century Suzhou, including Shen Zhou, Wu Kuan, Zhu Yunming, Wang Chong, Chen Shun, Peng Nian, Wang Guxiang , Wen Peng and others. The system required cooperation and coordination and it succeeded because the individuals involved were firmly committed to the success of the enterprise. The new owner knew little more, except that it bore the signature of the famous Yuan dynasty literatus and he purchased it on the chance that it might be genuine.
She could not remember where or when she had acquired the album but since it did not fit in with the rest of her collection she decided to sell it. Buyers are always looking to acquire a€?fresh goodsa€? that have not appeared on the market before.
After his fathera€™s death, Zhang Xueliang took control over much of northeastern China and was a major player in the subsequent period of warfare, politics, and intrique which shaped the face of modern China. Prior to this occasion I had seen very few good Chinese paintings in private hands in Taiwan. He was always excited to talk about Chinese art, collecting, and his longtime friendship with Zhang Daqian, who had died in 1983.
Although I had already resigned my position at Sothebya€™s, at Zhanga€™s request I assisted in the cataloging of the sale. During the late eighties and early nineties they became increasingly prominent bidders in New York sales of pre-modern paintings. Measuring more than thirty feet in length, the painting consists of ten sections, each depicting a specific view of a scholara€™s rock, as viewed from different angles.
We had developed an international interest in an art form that had previously seemed to many to be unapproachable and unsaleable.
Many of the new buyers--I hesitate to call them collectors--seemed to be in a hurry to buy a€?masterpieces,a€? major paintings by major artists.
The nature of the auction house and its role in the art market had changed over the years; it had become much more of a retail outlet and had lost much of its exclusivity. The establishment of regular auction sales of Chinese painting and calligraphy in Beijing, Shanghai, and elsewhere within mainland China, as well as in Taiwan, has further diluted the supply of quality works available to the New York-based auctions. The Chang Family Han Lu Studio Collection, sold by Christiea€™s New York in September 1996, featured a rare group of letters by Song dynasty writers in addition to several fine paintings and calligraphic rubbings. If the market rejects poor works of questionable attribution, that, in fact, is a positive indication for the field of Chinese paintings as a whole.
In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently opened their renovated Chinese Galleries and, for the first time, thanks to a generous gift from Robert H.
Specialized galleries have been established all over the world and several dealers in ancient Chinese art (including Kaikodo) have begun to feature contemporary paintings as well. The type of guohua practiced by the literati (wenrenhua) was severely attacked by many critics, among the most vocal of whom was the reformer Kang Youwei (1858-1927), who accused: a€?Four or five hundred years ago Chinese painting was the best. However, Qi did not sacrifice such traditional aesthetic values as excellence in brushwork, simplicity of form, and directness of expression; on the contrary, his work may be seen as advancing the art form in each of these aspects. Some of the most famous, including Xu Beihong (1895-1953), Liu Haisu (1896-1994), and Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), went to Europe to experience Western culture at first hand and to learn what they could about European art.
Liu Haisu, renowned for being the first in China to employ nude models for life drawing in his art school, was enamored of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists. Realistic oil painting, primarily figural themes, gradually incorporating more and more elements of the Soviet Socialist Realist style, became the new orthodoxy in China. Even after he is a firmly functioning member of the new culture, the orientations of his beginnings still influence him.
When the field develops so that new data contradict these old beliefs, a basic conflict develops in the field of knowledge. Art, parapsychology, ethics, and consciousness all play a part in comprehending these new realities. Only a chameleon-like illustrator could successfully create in such an environment, so it is not surprising that much of the propaganda art of the period, in style as well as function, is closer to advertising in the West than it is to fine art. That the two worlds should come together in this age of instantaneous global communication should not surprise us, but one of the most curious, even ironic aspects of this cross-cultural exchange is the way in which contemporary Chinese and Western artists and audiences tend to view the othera€™s culture.
No attempt was made to keep up with new developments in Western science and art; in fact, these were suppressed just as strenuously as traditional painting was being repressed. While many European and American artists explored alternate views of reality, through investigations into Eastern spirituality and art, (assisted, in some cases, by mind-altering drugs), the mainland Chinese artists found themselves mired in Marxist dogma and bound to a tradition of painting that was trapped in a reality-warp. Artists working in mainland China today are, at least for the time being, more free to express themselves than they have been for many decades. Perhaps they have not all attained the same level of technical prowess that painters of Imperial China would have developed through years of copying calligraphy and old master paintings, but neither are they burdened with the unenviable task of upholding Chinaa€™s artistic legacy and maintaining her outmoded cultural values. Western domination of technology and the world economy is a remnant of her colonial past, and economists, politicians, and businessman now increasingly look eastward for expanding economies and emerging markets.
Cross-cultural artistic exchanges will be so commonplace and will occur so quickly, and stylistic influences will be so vast and complex that regional or even national characteristics will be difficult, if not impossible, to discern. As cultures co-mingle rather than collide the purity of each artistic tradition is free to be rediscovered. Andrews, Painters and Politics in the Peoplea€™s Republic of China, 1949-1979, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1994, p. Laing, The Winking Owl: Art in the Peoplea€™s Republic of China, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988. In a passage that describes what sounds like a stroke, Opicinus details how his body slowly became paralyzed; he temporarily lost his ability to speak, and much of his memory. Opicinus almost always dated the Vaticanus drawings, which were composed between June and November of 1337.
The passage describes a visionary experience: through oculus meis interioribus, Opicinus is granted a new view of the earth, one in which the land and the sea take on human attributes. Most examples, however, lie in the realm of the theoretical, the academic, or the theological.
A significant problem with many previous studies of Opicinusa€™ drawings is that they take a few lines of text, from folios of the Palatinus, or from distant pages of text in the Vaticanus, and use them to a€?explaina€? the content of Opicinusa€™ strangest imagery.
The captions (and some of the texts), then, are often the evidence of Opicinusa€™ self-analysis a€” he uses himself as a case study, personalizing the drawings through the text. Simply put, we do not know if they were ever viewed as more than a curiosity by those who encountered them. Visual parallels to these drawings certainly exist: body-maps have been produced in numerous periods, including such famous examples as the Ebstorf Map (#224, Book II, a medieval world map that placed Christa€™s body in the corners of the earth), the Leo Belgicus (a map of the Netherlands and Belgium formed into the shape of a lion, the earliest example of which dates from 1583), or the Europa Regina, a depiction of Europe as a royal female (see below). In these drawings, Opicinus was not trying to express a single concept or doctrine, but rather to visualize the possibilities raised by an entire new way of looking at the world, based on what he had seen during his visionary experience of 1334.
The varied formats of these diagrams cannot be taken for granted a€” their arrangements form a crucial and underexplored aspect of their meaning.
But looking at them as a group, perhaps the first thing one notices is that the map itself is incredibly accurate.
The drawings in this first a€?categorya€? are not all alike, and there is no evidence that Opicinus thought of them as a group, but finding language to describe and categorize their forms is a critical first step in their interpretation.
This folio includes a cartographic picture in the upper two-thirds of the page, and text at the bottom. She is a rare example of a figure with a distinct racial identity: Opicinus darkened her skin with a grey-brown wash, in a clear reference to an African or Middle-Eastern skin tone.
One could even identify Europe in this drawing as a kind of conglomerate figure of Christianity. The strongest indicator that the figure is female is the small child lying over Lombardy a€” the area always associated with the womb of the European figure. The simplicity of this contrast stands out despite the extensive texts and interpretations written around it. Binary themes in similar drawings include a contrast between the mouth of hell and the temple of the Lord (fol.
Opicinus played with this arrangement differently in each of the three drawings, changing the scales and position of the two maps, presumably seeking different correspondences.
On the page we see the body-worlds with which we are now familiar: here, a female Europe confronts a female Africa, and the Mediterranean devil lies between them, his head to the east. 84r, in which the scale of the portolan chart is completely different (much smaller in comparison to the grid of Pavia); here, Opicinus identifies different correspondences and comes to different conclusions as a result of the change in scale. Yet the drawing is all about experimentation, layering, and play; to claim that creating or interpreting a drawing like this is a burden or struggle may be a modern misperception. But Opicinus piles on meanings, multiplies forms, and plays with realities seemingly as a form of experimentation. The grid may offer a clue to Opicinusa€™ working process, or the way he was inspired to create these drawings. Each of the two charts is rendered in a different scale, with a larger one oriented toward the top of the page and a smaller one pointed toward the bottom.
On each map, the western Mediterranean retains its integrity a€” France, Spain, and the northwestern coast of Africa are clearly visible both at the top and the bottom of the page.
In the Italian peninsula of the upper map, for example, which is overlapped by the eastern Mediterranean of the lower map, we see the word Roma written over the sea (on the sea-mana€™s forehead), signaling where the city would have been on the map below. Both figures of the a€?natural worlda€? are male (a bearded, older figure in Europe and a tonsured monk in Africa), while both of the a€?spirituala€? figures are female (Africa is a robed nun and Europe is a younger woman with long, flowing hair). The question, just as in the previous examples, is how its meaning is changed, activated, complicated, or simplified by its construction within the doubled and overlapped forms of the portolan charts. Within the drawing, small lines suggest points of correspondence between elements in each of the four quadrants. The three previous drawings were characteristic of a particular type; in contrast, this drawing is unique in Opicinusa€™ oeuvre. At the top of the page are two labels for Europe and Africa: Europe is the aduena rector novus, the strange new priest, and Africa is the parrochia aliena, the parish of another. This is labeled in a caption on the right side of the page, which reads a€?behold the vestment of the Church soaked in blood.a€? Opicinus accentuated the form of the vestment by adding a small cutout for the neck. The longer captions on this folio do not always contain a single focus, and many make no comment at all on the drawing. But spiritually there is truth in this mirror [i.e., in this drawing], since no heresy, fiction or allegory can be found that in this mirror does not give birth, at least in part, to a certain truth?
Here, Opicinus seems to say that men do not transition literally into angels of light or darkness a€” the figures of the priest and parish at the top of the page do not actually become the figures at the bottom of the page. Even as Opicinusa€™ drawings make use of the natural world and empirical science, the arrangement of their forms expresses the detachment from reality that characterizes a dream. At first, we would not identify these as genitalia a€” they are simply two small, robed bodies that stand within the genital region of the European body.
Four of these drawings depict the body-worlds, and the reproduction always takes place within the body of the European figure.
In each of these drawings, Opicinus drew a small copy of the body-worlds over the area of Lombardy, even extending it slightly into the sea near Genoa.
Gasparello, who introduced me a few of her colleagues, including James Lally and Carol Conover.
Chinese Painting began to solidify its position in the art market, and was listed as a separate expert department at Sotheby Parke Bernet beginning in 1979 (although internally Chinese Paintings was under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Works of Art Department).
Although neither sale was a financial triumpha€“the entire New York auction grossed just over $100,000a€“they paved the way for specialized sales of modern and contemporary Chinese paintings in both Hong Kong and New York and established the precedent for holding regular auctions in both locations.
For the next decade auction became one of the primary sources of Chinese painting and calligraphy for private collectors, dealers, and institutions.
Twentieth century painting, in particular, satisfied a demand on the part of new collectors for art that was both Chinese and modern. The success of Sothebya€™s Chinese Painting Department was linked, to a great extent, to the overwhelming dominance of our worldwide Chinese Works of Art Department led by James Lally in New York and Julian Thompson in London. The monumental six-panel work a€?Giant Lotusa€? had been purchased by Readera€™s Digest in 1963 from an exhibition of the artista€™s work held at Hirschl and Adler Gallery in New York. The album was of great importance, for both artistic and historical reasons, but since no work of this type had ever been offered at auction before, the presale estimate was a conservative $30,000-50,000. The inclusion of the painting in the Imperial Collection of the Qianlong and Jiaqing Emperors, attested to by the six Imperial seals affixed to the painting and its appearance in the catalogue Shiqu baoji sanbian, added luster to its provenance. I had the good fortune to work directly with many capable and dedicated individuals, including Tammy Mui and Maria Chu in Hong Kong, and Angela Hsu and Laura Whitman in New York, all of whom began as administrators and became specialists in their own right.
Based on the collectorsa€™ seals and colophons, the scroll displayed a magnificent provenance. There was much presale discussion among scholars as to the authenticity of the paintings, four of which bear the signature of Ma Yuan.
Sellers, on the other hand, appreciate the ability to dispose of works in a discreet manner.
He is most renowned (or notorious, depending on your point of view) for his participation in the Xia€™an Incident of 1936 whereby he captured Guomindang leader Chiang Kai-shek and forced him to negotiate with the Chinese Communist Party to create a united front to fight the Japanese. Although there were no collectorsa€™ seals on the paintings, my experience told me that such high quality works, beautifully mounted, must be from a serious collection. The auction of Fine Chinese Paintings from the Dingyuanzhai Collection was held in Taipei on Sunday, April 10, 1994. The ten images of the rock are interspersed with elaborate written descriptions composed and transcribed by the scholar-official Mi Wanzhong. Even as I revelled in a genuine sense of accomplishment, I was wary of the future of the department. They were generally more interested in the artista€™s name than in the quality of the work.
Both Sothebya€™s and Christiea€™s had undergone a gradual but undeniable shift in emphasis from expertise to marketing.
During the nineties, the New York auction rooms have been increasingly dominated by international dealers, such as Paul Moss, Harold Wong, and Kaikodo, representing themselves, institutions, and private clients all over the world.
To blame every poor sales result on a€?the marketa€? shifts attention away from the real issues, which are the quality and quantity of the offerings.
Ellsworth, Chinese paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries are prominently displayed alongside masterpieces from earlier periods.
They all progress along with the progress of science.a€?4 This emphasis on progress and the sincere belief that Western art (as the Chinese perceived it) was inherently more scientific and modern (and therefore more desirable) presented a serious challenge to advocates of literati painting and nearly signaled the end of the guohua tradition altogether. The degree of Qi Baishia€™s success is indicated most clearly by the fact that his style forms the basis of much of the guohua produced during the past fifty years. There is great difficulty and struggle in recognizing, organizing, and solving the new problems presented by the conflict of the new data and the old beliefs and basic orientations. While much of the booka€“which deals primarily with scientific theorya€“is likely to be incomprehensible to most specialists of art, its observations are relevant here for at least two important insights.
Not since the 1920s and 1930s, have young Chinese artists been able to explore such a broad range of stylistic and theoretical options and goals. Guohua need no longer be seen as the only medium capable of expressing the cultural identity of China because it is now clearer than ever before that there is no single identity and no single tradition that represents all Chinese. Many aspects of popular culture have become globalized and most large companies have internationalized. Artists from all over the world will be able to express their individual perceptions of new global realities in a truly international, multicultural forum. Traditional Chinese painting can coexist with works in other media, as they exist today or as they will appear in the future, and it need not replace nor be replaced by any other art form. Compare my naive and overly optimistic study Painting in the Peoplea€™s Republic of China: the Politics of Style, Boulder, 1980. He returned to these folios frequently in the years that followed a€” many include changes, graphic additions, or new captions, which he dated individually (we find dates from the years 1338-1341, especially). Morsea€™s other crucial innovation, in addition to asserting the rational and intentional basis of Opicinusa€™ thought, was to place the Vaticanus manuscript at the heart of her research. Salomon and others characterize the themes of the Vaticanus manuscript as just an extension of those in the Palatinus. The shapes of Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea each contain (or form) a human figure; these are the forms that Whittington calls a€?body-worlds,a€? and they constitute Opicinusa€™ most original and perplexing contribution to 14th century visual culture.
One of the things that makes Opicinusa€™ drawings so unusual is that they also incorporate a visual tradition that was practical, empirical, and scientific a€” medieval sea charts, usually called portolan charts.
He often kept adding to the drawings over many years, including new details or textual explanations, and dating them to a specific day.
As mentioned above, it seems possible that the Vaticanus was never meant to be viewed by others; much of it is arranged chronologically (like a diary), rather than thematically, and the subject matter of the texts and images suggests a private function. The meaning of such imagery obviously depends on context, but these diverse examples demonstrate how a land, country, or region has often been embodied within a human figure, to show the potential power of that space, or even the dominion of a figure over it. The images of Africa and Europe as human figures were the core of this experience, but the interpretation of the vision was left up to him.
According to Whittington the formats of Opicinusa€™ body-world drawings can be grouped into four categories: (1) single portolan charts, (2) portolan charts overlapping with local maps, (3) multiple portolan charts overlapping with each other, and (4) multiple, mirrored portolan charts.
The coastlines of the Mediterranean and the relative scale and position of the landforms are almost exactly the same as we know them to be today. The figure appears to be bare-chested, although no breasts are visible (perhaps they are covered by her long hair). But the label above the head of the figure seems to identify it as Opicinus assuming the identity of a€?the house of God.a€? Another caption in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of France labels the figure as an Ymago Prudentie. The fact that the face is labeled as Christa€™s would indicate on the surface that the figure is male. Yet beyond the basic characters and the captions, the drawinga€™s meaning is clearly activated or shifted by the placement of the two personifications within the geographical forms of the portolan chart; after all, it is not difficult to imagine a much simpler way to express this confrontation, using only pictures and no maps. The scene is full of interesting and surprisingly graphic details, many of them interpreted in the marginal texts.
Such interpretations are, I think, meant as models; as Morse demonstrated, Opicinus hoped that the drawings could be used by others to probe their own consciences and personal histories. Many parts of it must have been intentionally humorous, such as the basket for collecting the sea-mana€™s excrement, the graphic sexual organs, the interpretation of the Europe womana€™s pearl earrings, or the depiction of the Africa womana€™s cloak as a green river.
Even when texts in the Vaticanus indicated the stressors in Opicinusa€™ life a€”spiritual, moral, legal a€” the drawings remain exploratory and even lighthearted.
Without any words from him on the subject it is impossible to know where such an idea comes from, but perhaps the grids on the portolan chart(s) from which Opicinus was working reminded him of a gridded map of Pavia that he had seen, or perhaps even made. The mapsa€™ superimposition encourages the viewer to seek correlations between them, and Opicinus reinforces these correspondences by drawing actual lines and lines of text to connect various parts.
He grafts a spiritual system of correspondences and coordinations onto this new representation of the physical world, but specifically includes details that undermine both systems, seeking instead a negotiation between the two. The rota on the breast of Affrica naturalis shows the mental processes that lead to sin: thinking, imagining, deciding, and delighting in (cogitatio, ymaginatio, electio, delectatio) lead the sinner to consent to sin (consensus peccati).
These can either connect the same geographical location between two separate maps (as in the line drawn between the two Carthages on the upper left map and the lower left map), or establish a point of contact between the same physiological parts of two body-worlds on the same map (as in the line drawn between the reproductive areas of the Europe-woman and the Africa-woman in the upper-right map).
It contains four complete portolan charts, all the exact same size, placed in careful relation to one another through overlapping and mirroring.
This is different from the numerous drawings in the previous category, in which the two charts overlapped one another; here, the two white charts on the surface of the page are both complete diagrams of the region, reflecting one another along an invisible horizontal line in the Holy Land and Asia Minor. The figures seem to present the encounter between a new priest and his new parish (a situation that Opicinus underwent several times in his early career).
The role of this form in the drawing is ambiguous a€” its cruciform shape and its a€?soaking in blooda€? certainly evoke Christa€™s sacrifice, and its position at the heart of the drawing, precisely where the two white maps are mirrored, suggests that it may be significant in the transition between the two.
One caption on the left side of the page is a short rant about the mosquitoes that were bothering Opicinus while he made the drawing, while another, longer text at the lower left is an extended metaphorical description of the penis, describing how, like a heretic disobeying the Church, the penis disobeys the orders of the body. It is the caption that tells us something different; over their heads are written the words a€?matrixa€? and a€?virgaa€? a€” womb and penis. Representing pregnancy and birth inside of Europe was a way for Opicinus to convey how both good and evil tendencies enter the world.
Some researchers have convincingly explained this positioning of the tiny body-world figures as indicating a Caesarian birth; as Opicinus explains, the two figures are born through Genoa, the a€?forced porta€? in the stomach of the European figure, rather than through Venice, the a€?natural porta€? of the figurea€™s vaginal canal (Opicinus makes the pun about Venetian a€?canalsa€? several times). The earliest depiction of Europe as a woman is believed to be by the 14th century Pavian cleric Opicinus de Canistris for the papal court, then at Avignon.
The following year I joined Paula Gasparello as a full time specialist in Chinese painting and we began to hold regular auctions of Chinese paintings and calligraphy.
Although the art market as a whole was not particularly strong in the early 1980s the Chinese department, fueled in part by a burgeoning Hong Kong economy, held its own. Sothebya€™s early entry into the market in Asia, particularly Hong Kong, gave us a distinct advantage in cultivating new buyers and sourcing potential consignors of paintings as well as ceramics and works of art. The curators of the Readera€™s Digest collection had no knowledge or interest in Chinese art, even contemporary Chinese art, and they decided to sell the work at auction. After intense competition, primarily among overseas Chinese collectors, the album sold for $297,000, nearly ten times the presale estimate and easily a world auction record for Chinese calligraphy at the time. The scroll had been consigned by a young Hong Kong collector and it was finally hammered down for $187,000 to a new North American collector bidding against stiff international competition.
Additionally I received tremendous support from my colleagues in the international Chinese Works of Art Department and in Sothebya€™s regional offices, especially Rita Wong, Suzanne Tory, Meeseen Loong, Tony Omura, Timothy Sammons, Jonathan Bennett, David Priestley, and Patti Lam, all of whom were helpful in finding consignments as well as in assisting collectors and cultivating new buyers. Opinions ranged from a€?genuinea€? to a€?Southern Song, but not Ma Yuan,a€? to a€?Ming Academy work,a€? to a€?17th century copy,a€? but in the end the album was sold for $319,000 to a Chinese-American collector who believes it to be a genuine work of the Song master.
In the case of famous works or well-established collections, however, the auction houses can also capitalize on the cachet and reputation associated with the individual work or collection.
Chiang did give lip-service to the united front effort and flew back with Zhang to Nanjing where Chiang was given a heroa€™s welcome. The presale exhibition was extremely well attended and the salesroom was packed with serious collectors of Chinese art as well as dozens of unfamiliar faces and first-time buyers who were not really art collectors but were aware of the identity of the owner and hoped to come away with a piece of history. Following the painting are lengthy colophons by Ming and Qing dynasty writers, including Dong Qichang. I found it increasingly difficult to procure enough authentic paintings and calligraphy to satisfy their needs. But to dwell on these philosophical differences would present a negative picture of what I saw as a very positive decision and a logical career progression. Taiwan buyers are not as active as they once were but they are beginning to be replaced by a new generation of collectors in mainland China. Selectivity is the key to survival, for auction houses and dealers alike, because selectivity is the key to collecting. Not only were Chinese artists and intellectuals largely cut off from their own past, they were also isolated from artistic and scientific developments in the rest of the world. In the struggle confusions arise, and there is a loss of communication among many of the students of the field of knowledge. 1936), and others, who discovered and pursued the underlying intellectual and spiritual connections between traditional Chinese painting and 20th century Western art, particularly abstract, non-objective painting.
An accurate assessment of the visual arts in todaya€™s China would require investigation into an unprecedented variety of media including oil painting, acrylics, watercolor, gouache, sculpture, woodblock prints, ceramics, textiles, film, graphic design, and installation art in addition to the traditional forms of Chinese painting and calligraphy. Hong Kong and overseas Chinese have had to grapple with complex questions of identity on a daily basis. It is equally clear, however, that, in spite of all attempts to suppress it, traditional Chinese painting is both resilient and relevant.
Young people the world over listen to the same music, eat the same hamburgers, and wear the same sneakers.
Guohua will survive because of its unique and timeless artistic qualities: expressiveness of line, simplicity of form, and purity of spirit.
The dating of the Palatinus is more complicated a€” the large autobiographical calendar on fol.
The Vaticanus was often mentioned by earlier authors, but had never been the object of extensive study, perhaps because its visual material is smaller and less elaborate than the large Palatinus folios. These and other claims are refuted by Whittington with a basic statistical analysis of the manuscriptsa€™ subject matter. Their enigmatic forms, expressions, and arrangements have the power to arrest the attention of modern viewers, reversing expectations about what sorts of imagery were possible in the early 14th century.
The a€?world,a€? in Opicinusa€™ drawings, is always represented using these charts; they form the drawingsa€™ structural basis and frame their meanings.
Still, crucially, this does not make the drawings, in their inception, a€?abouta€? Opicinus. The large size of the Palatinus folios suggests a more public function, given their physical similarity to large medieval wall maps and portolan charts. Here one sees before a map of the Mediterranean world a€” Europe, North Africa, Anatolia and part of the Near East are left the white color of the paper, and the seas around them are tinted with a reddish-brown wash. The incredibly diverse drawings that he created in the years that followed were his way of exploring the meaning of this vision and experimenting with different strategies for representing its shape and scope, searching for the arrangements and combinations that would lead him to the deepest meaning. Opicinusa€™ maps were based on the most modern and technically accomplished cartography of his day a€” marinersa€™ sea-charts, which we call portolan charts.
Several folios depict only the western portion of the standard Mediterranean portolan chart, limiting their view to the area between Gibraltar and the boot of Italy. The geographic range of the depicted portolan outline is narrow - we see Gibraltar, Tunisia, France, Spain, and Italy, but none of the eastern Mediterranean, which is cut off by the drawinga€™s lower edge. Little is visible of her lower body, but she wears some kind of cloth wrapped around her waist. However, the most prominent indicator of the figurea€™s identity is the large rota around the face in the Iberian peninsula, which seems to label the figure as Christ.
The drawing thus suggests a combination of male and female elements: a pregnant female personification of Christendom, with Christ at the head and heart. In this first example, where the contrast between the two figures is simple and direct, we can more easily explore two ways that the form of the drawing a€” its geographical frame a€”may change the meaning of these figures.
For example, the Mediterranean figure appears to have two sexual organs a€” one massive penis that seems to be ejaculating onto the southern coast of Spain, and another that he clutches in his fist (presumably in an act of masturbation) near Venice. 84v, numerous captions explore the moral, theological, quotidian, and incidental correspondences created by the overlay of the city grid on the portolan chart.


In addition, the monastery with which they were both associated fell near Rome on the portolan chart. The revelation and the experiment were meant to be used by anyone a€” Opicinus is using himself as a test case, taking examples from his own life, family history, and childhood, and using them to interpret the correspondence between the two charts. These are all examples of Akbaria€™s horizontal allegory, or of allegory as a primarily interpretive act; Opicinus creates the structure (which may or may not have an intrinsic meaning a€” in this case, it seems not to), but the primary work is put into interpretation, play, and the creative exploration of his visual construction. Opicinus created, an over-determined world because of its opportunities and flexibility, not to build a burdensome system that would collapse on top of him. This basic format is repeated on at least eight other pages in the Vaticanus; again, there are variations in the size and placement of the two maps, but all of these examples include two portolan charts that are laid on top of one another. In the smaller, lower image, the negative space of the chart a€” the sea a€” is tinted with a light brown wash, delineating the body of the so-called a€?Mediterranean Man,a€? often labeled a€?Lucifera€? His head and beard occupy the eastern Mediterranean (his ear tucked against the Nile delta and curving beard shaping the coast of the Anatolian peninsula), his arms gesture near Italy (one fist plunging violently east of Italy, forming the Adriatic), and his feet poke out near Gibraltar, between the faces of Europe and Africa. On this page he connects the two representations of the Adriatic with a diagonal line that slices through the center of the image, running from Venice on one chart to Venice on the other. Morse also points out that different renderings of the sea in the two charts likely correspond to their content; the embodied a€?devil seaa€? lies between the natural worlds, while the a€?spiritual seaa€? is left empty, perhaps to indicate its purity. Small lines connect the first four concepts to the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of the Africa-figure, indicating the complicity of the exterior senses in this pathway to sin. 74v how Opicinus, by framing his allegories within the portolan charts, solidified their meaning into measured form, aligning the worlda€™s shapes with the truths and figures they revealed. The meaning of such lines remains ambiguous, but they do suggest points of contact and interconnection between elements that are otherwise set in opposition to one another.
All four of these portolan charts are embodied, creating eight distinct characters: four male figures of Europe, and four figures of Africa (two angels and two male figures). Rather than containing the figure of the diabolical sea, the spaces of the Mediterranean and Black Seas on these two charts are left as windows through which the viewer can see the other maps in the drawing.
The colored worlds below are not labeled, but the figures seem to be a precise mirror of those on top, in both gender and physical appearance.
Opicinusa€™ statement about the generation of meaning seems to apply both to this drawing and to many others that depict multiple levels of reality (usually through multiple iterations of the body-worlds). 82r becomes overwhelming, Opicinus provides the viewer with visual cues to make sense of the drawinga€™s disorienting forms. This drawing contrasts two complete sets of body-worlds, one overlapping and partially obscuring the other, and two very different depictions of genitalia are found in the area around Venice on both depictions of Europe. In a passage early in the Vaticanus, Opicinus describes how the a€?diabolical seaa€? inseminates an already-pregnant Europe, splitting the child unnaturally into two figures a€” Europe and Africa. Victoria Morse shows the way that Opicinus read meaning even into the precise position of these two tiny body-worlds over Lombardy below, determining which local cities fell under Africa and Europe.
Ma, Director of Chinese Paintings at Christiea€™s, is determined to maintain a market presence in New York, it would appear that a corporate decision has been made to eventually shift the sale of virtually all Chinese paintings, both classical and modern, to Hong Kong. I readily agreed to research and catalogue the sixteen paintings and one calligraphy, which included works by Wen Zhengming, Lu Zhi, Wang Wen, Wen Boren, Ju Jie, Lan Ying, Wang Duo, Wang Jian, Fa Ruozhen, Wang Hui, Wang Yuanqi, Gao Qipei, Huang Shen, Zheng Xie, Li Fangying, and Luo Ping. By early 1982 economic pressures led to a significant number of layoffs at Sotheby Parke Bernet.
It allowed elderly collectors to dispose of works they no longer needed and families to discreetly disperse inherited private collections. The entire auction totaled nearly $800,000, well below the $1,200,000 presale low estimate for the 126 lots, but encouraging nonetheless because nearly 80% (by value) was sold and a number of pieces brought strong prices. Later, the Ming scholar Chen Jiru attached a colophon and the painter Cheng Zhengkui affixed his seal, and it then found its way into the hands of two of the premier collectors of the 17th and 18th centuries, Liang Qingbiao, and An Qi, who recorded it in his Moyuan huiguan.
Nestled amongst the leaves of the album was a short note written in French which indicated that the work had been purchased from a soldier who had fought in China, presumably during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Paintings that have been exhibited in museums or have appeared in serious publications tend to be more marketable. Zhang Xuelianga€™s efforts to unify China against a common enemy, however, were rewarded with a swift court-martial and more than five decades of house arrest. Without commenting in detail about either of the works I said simply: a€?The owner of these paintings must have many good things. The sale was a tremendous success and Zhang Xueliang, along with his loving wife Edith, moved to Hawaii where they remain today as Zhang begins his second century on this earth. Wu Bina€™s name does not figure prominently in traditional Chinese accounts of painting history but he is highly regarded by Western scholars. There was now firm evidence that the right Chinese painting in the right economic environment could sell for more than a million dollars, but it had to be just the right painting offered at just the right time. Perhaps my own notions of quality were too high and my standards for judging authenticity were more strict than the current market necessitated, but I found myself rejecting many works that were later sold successfully elsewhere. Ma the autonomy to structure the sales in a way that is most beneficial to the company and to his clients. Guggenheim Museum is planning a major exhibition of 5,000 years of Chinese art which will include modern and contemporary works in a variety of media, and the Asia Society is organizing a show of contemporary art by Chinese artists living outside of China for the fall of 1998. Artists in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and abroad have of course had many more artistic options open to them and they have already made significant contributions to the field contemporary art. However, it is interesting to observe that these individual Chinese artists of diverse backgrounds have found common ground in their choice of medium. It is worth noting that most of the Chinese painters who worked in both Western and Chinese media demonstrated a distinct preference for the latter in their late years. In cyberspace, national borders do not exist and information is constantly exchanged across continents at lightning speed. The first 48 contain little visual material besides a few marginalia, while the second half of the book includes some text-only pages, some full-page drawings, and some smaller drawings with extensive text on or around them. 11r, which provides the most complete information about his life, ends with June 1336, suggesting that this drawing was finished by that date. In contrast, Morse demonstrated that the Vaticanus holds the key to understanding Opicinusa€™ thought: its drawings are more intimate and revealing, and it contains over a hundred pages of text. Portolan charts were modern, cutting-edge diagrammatic maps of the Mediterranean region, and Opicinusa€™ use of them transforms what would otherwise have been old-fashioned, theoretical, and primarily textual drawings into a completely new type of representation.
Interpreting the vision with relation to his own body and life was only one of the tactics that he used. The drawings in both manuscripts could have been preparatory studies for some larger-scale project or commission that was never carried out. According to Whittington, to explain what the body-worlds a€?mean,a€? one must explore how and why Opicinus harnessed these maritime maps to a completely different purpose from that for which they were created. Others include the entire range of the chart, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea and the Holy Land. Small captions and rotae are positioned at various points on the map; some of these are placed to comment specifically on a geographical feature, while others remark more generally on the drawing and its characters.
A worm or snake emerges from an otherwise empty circle on her stomach, twisting along the North African coast, its mouth gnawing on the figurea€™s thumb near Carthage. Large red capital letters spell out C-R-I-S-T-U-S, with each letter also being the first letter of one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Opicinus uses the portolan chart to construct a binary system in which values can be opposed, and also to place these allegories or personifications within a space that is, in the broadest sense, real. On the southern coast of France, a basket-woven pattern is explained in a caption as a basket to catch the excrement of the sea-figure.
For example, in a short passage in the upper left corner of the page, Opicinus mentions that the body of the sea-devil extends beyond the inner city wall of the Pavian map, which he interprets as a sign that malice and mischief are spread out in the city; beyond the old city walls. An over-determined world allowed him to make visible to himself and his potential readers the primary concerns, impulses, histories, and spaces of his world and his body in a way that led to potentially productive connections and revelations. In contrast, the sea of the larger top map is not embodied, and retains the color of the paper.
This line could help the viewer perceive the imagea€™s orientation, by providing a reference point for the location of the same city on each map at this crucial juncture at the center.
The sea-figure takes control of the pagea€™s center, superimposing his twisting body over the eastern half of the upper, spiritual chart a€” his a€?negativea€? space dominates the positive space of the other chart. In contrast, a caption on the rota for Affrica spiritualis points to the interior senses (sensus interiores) that indicate spiritual progress: meditation, contemplation, discernment, and rumination (meditatio, contemplatio, discretio, degustatio).
They also establish that the body-worldsa€™ identities as both bodies and maps remain significant on their own; because connections rely on their status as both maps and bodies, one is not emphasized over the other. This window or outline a€” the negative space of the upper drawing a€” provides a view onto a world of color.
The mirror of any of his creations, which he acknowledges are fabrications (in the sense that they are imaginary and exploratory), will always contain some new level of meaning. The two red lines indicate the precise point where worlds are mirrored, and the differentiation in color a€” white, brown, and red a€” brings the forms of the body-worlds into a near-sculptural relief.
In the overlapped body-worlds, which are tinted with red and brown wash, we see a small penis depicted inside the figure of Europe, just past the fist of the Mediterranean figure. It must be acknowledged that both figures are shaped like small penises, but it is also true that in medieval anatomical texts the female genitalia are often described as an interiorized mirror image of a male penis, so perhaps we should not be surprised that the two are a€?personified,a€? if we want to use that term, in similar ways. According to Victoria Morse, Europea€™s pregnancy was also related to local political situations, visualizing the (sexual) corruption of Lombardy within an otherwise holy European body. She then contrasts this a€?violenta€? delivery of the figures with the small baby depicted on fol. In 1537 the Tirolese cartographer Johann Putsch celebrated the Hapsburg rule over Europe by presenting a placid a€?Europa Reginaa€? wearing Charles Va€™s Spain as a crown and Ferdinanda€™s Austria as a medal at her waist, representing the triumph of the Hapsburgs. Paula Gasparello was one of the casualties and I was given responsibility for all sales of Chinese paintings in New York and Hong Kong. Sothebya€™s and Christiea€™s performed the traditional auction house role of providing a secondary market for dealers, museums, and collectors and, in the case of some contemporary works, occasionally played the unfamiliar role of developing a primary market through the introduction of new artists into the marketplace.
I was astounded to be asked by the curator whether the six large hanging scrolls, which are clearly meant to be hung together as a single work, could be sold separately. The scroll subsequently entered the Qianlong Imperial collection and it is dutifully noted in the Shiqu Baoji xubian. This album must have been looted from the Imperial Palace when the combined Western military forces were called in to quell an anti-Christian, anti-foreign Chinese peasant uprising.
I would like to see them.a€? The intermediary left, saying that she would talk with the owner. Not surprisingly, this long handscroll was hotly contested by two dealers bidding on behalf of American private collectors, and it was finally sold for $1,210,000. The few buyers at the top were unpredictable, buying in what seemed to me to be a rather indiscriminate manner, often paying high prices for works of dubious merit while ignoring what I considered to be high quality examples. For whatever reasons, my competitor was extremely adept at finding works that suited the tastes and budget of the new clientele and Christiea€™s consistently won the battle of market share, which is a house-to-house comparison performed by auction house accountants, like a bizarre postmortem ritual wake, after every series of auctions. The auction houses are large international corporations with tremendous costs and huge overhead. An examination of the current state of guohua as a distinct type of Chinese art, however, is useful because the limited focus of the investigation brings heightened clarity to larger artistic issues.
Their conscious decision to work with traditional brush and ink applied to absorbent paper, at a time when so many other options are available, indicates at the least a tenuous link to Chinaa€™s artistic past.
Modern communications and transportation have made all markets international, including the art market. The representation and interpretation of this divine image of the earth would occupy much of the rest of his life.
Other dates in the manuscript are scarce; most scholars agree that the bulk of the drawings were completed between February 1335 and June 1336, with later additions stretching all the way to 1350.
Opicinus was working during a crucial moment in the history of cartography, when numerous artists and mapmakers sought to combine old and new forms. Most of the drawings suggest other interpretive avenues, through personifications, allegorical confrontations, or superimposition; one does not have to turn to Opicinusa€™ biography to explain them. It is also possible that these works were intended, like several of Opicinusa€™ earlier treatises, for the Pope. In this example, Europe is embodied as a man a€” his head occupies the Iberian Peninsula, his chest and stomach lie in France (where some kind of beast in the ocean tries to bite at his shoulder), his arm arches up through the lowlands and Germany, and his legs occupy the Italian peninsula and the Dalmatian coast. He used this technical, practical, scientific cartography to probe deeper into the nature of God and the created world. But all of the drawings in this category share a single feature: they include only one map, one level of cartographic reality on the page.
The two figures that constitute, lie within, or coexist with Africa and Europe are classic examples of Opicinusa€™ body-worlds (the third figure that often appears in the Mediterranean is not included, in this particular drawing). In two outer concentric rings Opicinus places the names of the seven planets and the days of the week. Yet their placement within a map, particularly an empirical one which was actually used for travelling, emphasizes the tenuousness of such binary oppositions.
Despite these and other details on the figures, the actual bodies seem less important to Opicinus in these three drawings; the commentary focuses more on the physical interplay and connections between the two overlapping maps. It is not that he thinks that this image of the two maps placed in this particular arrangement is necessarily a€?correcta€? or a€?truea€? a€” on fol. 84v offers further evidence that Opicinus viewed the portolan charts as empirical representations.
At the centre of the page the embodied eastern Mediterranean of the lower map (including the Black Sea) overlaps both the land and the sea of the upper map, so that its eastern half (part of Italy and all of Greece, Egypt, and Turkey) is obscured. Or, given the opposing genders of the two Europes in the maps, and the fact that the area at the top of the Adriatic was understood as the erogenous zone of the European body, the line could suggest a sexual point of contact a€” even intercourse a€” between the two figures. It is necessary first to describe and explain the drawinga€™s complex structure, before discussing its content in relation to several captions that surround it. In the space below, the continents are shaded a brick red, while the seas are painted a soft brown-grey.
The interpretive paradigm for this drawing must be one of experimentation; it is the only image in the manuscript with this particular arrangement of forms, and through it Opicinus only seems to have arrived at fragments of meaning. The small caption nearby simply reads Venetie [Venice] and without further explanation it is unclear whether the penis belongs to the European body, depicted lying back against his stomach, or whether he is somehow being penetrated by a small penis belonging to the sea-figure. Here, reproductive sexuality is a sign of corruption; elsewhere, as we will see, it is a marker of generative spirituality. 74v, which is positioned for a normal delivery through Venice, with its head down and its arms folded peacefully in prayer. The queena€™s crown (Spain), orb (Sicily), and heart (Bohemia) from a triangle that directs the viewera€™s eye away from Eastern Europe toward the West.
This afforded me a unique opportunity to build up a new market but I was faced with the daunting challenge of trying to make sense out of a very complicated subject. I was relieved to land the consignment and to receive permission to sell the painting as one lot!
In spite of the impressive pedigree of the handscroll, two of the leading authorities on Chinese calligraphy in America initially expressed doubts about its authenticity, perhaps confusing it with a well known related work in a Japanese collection.
As a result of the suppression of the Boxer Uprising, not only did the Qing government suffer the indignity of agreeing to pay a huge indemnity to the foreign powers, but a number of European, Japanese, and American soldiers helped themselves to what they considered to be war booty and souvenirs from the Forbidden City.
Landing an important collection or estate creates an opportunity for promotion and also enhances the reputation of the department within the field and within the company. Later that day, while Rita Wong, then head of the Taiwan office, was driving me home it occurred to me that the most logical source of the two paintings had to be Zhang Xueliang.
The results of the June 1992 New York auctions of Chinese paintings, however, proclaimed Sothebya€™s the victor in market share, winning by a substantial 53% to 47% margin. As was the case during the first half of this century, the decision to paint guohua will be made for different reasons by different artists. In over eighty surviving drawings, now kept in the Vatican Library and referred to by scholars as the Vaticanus and Palatinus manuscripts, he experimented with how he could uncover the meaning that he was sure God had planted in the vision he saw, in the hope that his drawings would help to renew the faith of all Christians.
Far more drawings in the Vaticanus portray body-worlds (23), while few in the Palatinus do so (6).
This encounter between the scientific and the spiritual is best explored by looking at the structures that Opicinus used to create the drawings. Another rota lies inside France, near the location that Opicinus usually associates with the a€?hearta€? of the Europe figure a€” Avignon. On a map you can literally sail by sea from one a€?placea€? or a€?bodya€? to the other a€” each place is accessible to the other.
Here, the grid structures the space of the local map, but also shapes the way we view the portolan below. It looks like a kind of symbolic twin to the spatio-indexical rhumb lines of the original portolan charts. 61r demonstrates that Opicinus was also aware of the dangers of aligning appearance with truth; appearances could just as easily deceive as reveal.
The arrangement of these colored maps beneath the surface of the white ones is the most complicated aspect of the drawing. The angels are labeled angelus lucis and angelus tenebrarum a€” an angel of light and an angel of darkness. Given the penises in this region that we discussed above, this latter proposition is not without basis, but it seems more likely that it belongs to the European figure, since it is tinted the same color.
At the time Chinese paintings were occasionally sold by Sothebya€™s London as well, where they were included as a postscript to Japanese print sales.
The image of a€?Giant Lotusa€? appeared as a wrap-around cover for the June 1982 auction of Chinese Works of Art and Paintings and it attracted interest from across the globe, selling to a collector in Taiwan for $77,000, at the time a world-record auction price for a contemporary Chinese painting.
Fortunately two astute overseas Chinese collectors recognized the scrolla€™s importance and they bid it up to a final price of $77,000.
A significant number of paintings and large quantities of Imperial ceramics and other works of art must have found their way into Western collections during the early part of this century in this manner, although the casual note found in this album provides rare documentation of the phenomenon. In his youth, well before the Xia€™an Incident, Zhang had been known as a collector of Chinese art. On the other hand, the size of the operation can render the fundamentally simple process of selling individual works of art overly complicated and expensive. For some, the impetus will be to continue to be part of an unbroken artistic tradition which they can trace back into antiquity, thus reaffirming their own cultural identities. Even today, there is something about using brush and ink, like eating food with chopsticks, that feels natural to a Chinese artist. Nearly all of the drawings in the Palatinus feature what Whittington calls an a€?overarching containing structurea€? a€” a geometrical framework that contains all of the drawinga€™s content. Her face is to the west, shown in profile as she seems to whisper into the ear of the European figure across the Straits of Gibraltar. She seems to speak directly into the ear of the European figure, depicted partly in profile and partly from the front. At the center of the roundel is a seated figure of Christ showing his wounds; around this are the names of seven episcopal seats, and the seven planets and their positions. In these simplest drawings, though, such a possibility is only hinted at; a much fuller manipulation of the metaphor of travel and movement between binaries, and indeed a subversion of the very concept of binary opposition, is found in Opicinusa€™ more complicated images, discussed below. This grid, eight squares by ten, is oriented in the same way as the map below, with east at the top of the page (the street grid of Pavia was, and still is, slightly off-axis from the cardinal points because of its alignment with the river, which is reflected in its positioning at a slight angle on the page).
Opicinus just seems to be testing each possible arrangement on either side of the folio, turning it back and forth to see which parts of it align with things he believes to be true.
Any resident or visitor familiar with the city would recognize that the local map of Pavia was a measured, accurate representation, and the fundamental hypothesis of this image and its interpretation is that correspondences can be deduced through the alignment of one measured map with another.
One complete map lies below the upper white map, and one complete map lies below the lower white map, but each is placed in a different relation to its chart above. The angel of light in the surface map whispers into the ear of the upper male Europe, labeled homo spiritualis, while the angel of darkness whispers to homo carnalis. 61v, where two tiny figures with the same labels hold between them a baby, its head positioned downward, pointing toward the area near Venice through which we presume it would be born.
The Spelman paintings were significant in that they presented to the market a group of excellent works with generally reliable attributions.
I was gradually able to wrestle control from the Japanese Department and for a time we experimented with selling Chinese paintings through the London Chinese Department. The sale of the painting received significant publicity in Taiwan and Hong Kong and it helped to bolster Sothebya€™s reputation in Asia for expertise in Chinese paintings. In a relatively small but extremely specialized market, like Chinese paintings, there may be other, more efficient ways to match buyer with seller.
For others, the choice of guohua may be primarily a reaction against the repressive artistic policies of the Communist regime, ostensibly denying their ties to the recent past.
The danger of any study of Opicinus is that in seeking out the contexts in which one may understand Opicinusa€™ work as logical and coherent, one risks losing sight of what makes them so exceptional. But he also used this idea in order to create images unrivalled in their complexity and interpretive difficulty, multiplying maps and figures across the page in kaleidoscopic networks. The local grid is filled in with detail; the numerous small labels in brown indicate churches, city gates, bridges, and monasteries in Pavia, while the few red captions refer to cities or regions on the portolan below (here, like elsewhere, Opicinus uses color to clarify his content for the reader).
Once again, a grid serves two functions, measuring the space of one reality and indicating the measurability of another.
On the top half of the page, the tinted map below is a precise mirror image of the upper map, reflected from it along a red horizontal line that bisects the upper, white body-worlds. The arrangement recalls nothing so much as the angel and devil of the human conscience that perch on the shoulders of cartoon figures in modern movies and comics, offering advice and urging the character towards good or bad decisions; in the drawing, the heads of the angels seem to rest directly on the shoulders of the figures below them.
Here, the two a€?personificationsa€? of the penis and the womb have produced a tiny child and are preparing it for birth. Later editions of Europe as a queen were issued by Sebastian Munster, Heinrich Bunting and Matthias Quad.
The market there never developed and to this day collecting interest for Chinese painting in Europe remains limited. In early publications on Chinese painting his name is often listed as the owner of specific works which had not yet resurfaced. For still others, the immediacy and sensitivity of the traditional medium and its unmatched ability to respond to the subtlest of touches, may be reason enough to adopt the art form, affirming the individuala€™s artistic identity, irrespective of his political viewpoint.
This a€?manuscripta€? is a collection of 27 huge unbound parchment sheets, averaging about two by three feet, although some are significantly larger. This observation prompts the next a€” that the Palatinus drawings almost always include calendars (usually as part of the overarching containing structure), while few of the Vaticanus drawings do. Looking at the drawings as a whole, there can be no doubt that there are distinct threads running through them a€” themes, problems, and possibilities that Opicinus set out to explore. And just as the drawingsa€™ forms combine simplicity and complexity, their content also veers from the straightforward to the impenetrable.
The relationship between these human figures and the landforms is, as is always the case in Opicinusa€™ drawings, very difficult to describe.
The huge green swath at the right of the page indicates the Ticino River, which is coextensive with the long veil or cloak worn by the Africa woman. The white body-worlds in the top layer always overlap the lower, colored ones, which are only visible in the negative space of the sea. These personificationsa€™ sexuality is normative and non-transgressive a€” male and female members come together inside of the female body. However, perhaps because of this quirk in the market, Europe became for me a significant source of paintings for sale in both New York and Hong Kong. Over the next few years I developed a peculiar relationship with Zhang Xueliang, through his intermediary, who initially did not acknowledge his identity but realized that I knew who the real owner of these works was.
Depending on the individual viewera€™s perception, the figures can seem to be lying on top of the land, growing out of it, or somehow placed under it a€” as if the landforms are windows through which we are looking.
The green lines at the top and bottom of the page show the path of several Pavian canals, and the three concentric red boundaries drawn around the page indicate the city walls. The same system is repeated in the lower half of the drawing, except that the lower tinted map is reflected along a vertical line, also colored red. She began showing me paintings on his behalf, some for sale, some not, and she would relay back to Zhang my comments about the works. If not, we are witnessing the close of a short but intense chapter in Chinese painting history.
From these observations, Whittington generalizes some of the basic differences between the two manuscripts. Most of all, however, these enigmatic forms seem to depict the earth and the bodies as coextensive, and of the same material a€” bodies made out of the earth. The two maps on the bottom half of the page are also mirror images of one another, but along a different axis. We began selling the less important scrolls, which did not bear his collectora€™s seals, but gradually he consigned, always through a friend in the United States, major paintings by artists such as Shen Zhou and calligraphy by as importantt a writer as Zhao Mengfu. If the major auction houses decide that it is no longer financially viable to continue to hold sales of Chinese paintings in New York, it will be up to a few committed and knowledgable dealers to try to pick up the slack.
The Vaticanus seems to be more of a personal manuscript, perhaps never intended for a wider audience.
The more one looks at these body-worlds, the more one sees the human figures as figures a€” the stranger parts of their bodies, where the landforms do not align so easily with a normative human shape, become less and less noticeable. The two red axes are thus crucial to understanding the drawing: they must have been used to construct it and also intended to aid in its decoding. Its drawings are less structured and presentational, contain more sexual imagery, and include more personal themes, all of which we might associate with a private, rather than public function (although such distinctions were perhaps more fluid in 14th century Italy than they are today). Secondly, the drawings in the Vaticanus and Palatinus have very different structures; the Vaticanus uses the form of the portolan [nautical] chart to structure meaning and representations of bodies, while the Palatinus drawings use larger geometric, ecclesiastical, and temporal frames, which in turn often contain representations of the earth. How can those who paint just for fun in their spare time capture the true character of all things on earth. Finally, the Palatinus drawings contain a temporal, cyclical element (numerous calendars and representations of the zodiac) that the Vaticanus drawings usually lack.



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