Reinventing Art History: Forgery and Counterforgery in Early Modern Chinese Art

Postponed until next term. Date to be confirmed.

In 1633, Zhang Taijie (b. 1588), a highly educated scholar-official from Songjiang (modern-day Shanghai), published a woodblock edition of A Record of Treasured Paintings (Ch. Baohuilu), an extensive record of his private painting collection. Over its nine-hundred pages, the book registers around 330 paintings by ninety master artists accompanied by painstakingly transcribed colophons written by numerous celebrity artists, critics, and connoisseurs that appeared on these works. This book could be a very useful resource for historians of Chinese art as it provides accounts of many paintings by artists whose works are no longer existent. There is only one, major problem: the book is a forgery. The entire roster of paintings, as well as their textual records, are fabrications that Zhang Taijie ingeniously and meticulously created. By means of this monumental project, forging and circulating this well-documented, grand collection, Zhang promoted himself as one of the most successful art collectors of the time. But Zhang did not stop there: he also forged paintings to match the records in the volume so he could profit from trading in those faked works. J.P. Park’s research begins by asking just how he was able to pull off this bold chicanery and what impact this practice might have had in the history of Chinese art. His focus is not to highlight the artistic frauds of tricksters or the credulity of the public in early modern China, but to examine the historical and analytical irregularities that have been institutionalized in the study of Chinese art.

Please note this talk has been rescheduled from the Michaelmas Term 2019 Department of History of Art Research Seminar