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Twelve-panel screen depicting “Spring Morning in the Han Palace” with inscription; encomium on the reverse

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 26

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At A Glance

On View
  • Period

    Mid-summer (May-June), 1672 (renzi [year] zhongxia [mid-summer]
  • Geography

  • Material

    Black lacquer on prepared wooden core; carved recesses filled with polychrome pigments and gold (kuancai)
  • Dimension

    H x W x D: 216.5 x 50.1 x 606.5 cm (85 1/4 x 19 3/4 x 238 3/4 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Artist

    Sheng Nian 盛年 (active 17th century) painted the template followed by lacquer specialists
  • Description

    Coromandel screen in twelve sections. Depicits 166 figures and has an inscription with 3 seals. The back covered with inscription.Two seals. Decoration: inlaid in colored lacquers and gold.
  • Marks

    Three seals on the inscription on the pictorial face of the screen: 1. Sheng Nian 盛 年 2. dayou shi 大有氏 3. wumensanren 吳門散人。 Sheng Nian is intaglio and the other two are relief. Wumensanren is an oval shaped seal at the right of the inscription and the other two are squares below the signature line on the left.
  • Inscriptions

    An inscription in the upper right corner of the first panel identifies the theme as "Han-kung ch'un-hsiao" ("Spring Morning in the Palaces of Han") and gives the date, second month of Summer in the "jen-tzu" year of the K'ang-hsi period (i.e., May 27-June 24, 1672). A considerably longer inscription covering the entire reverse surface of the twelve panels records that the screen was commissioned as a gift by Huang Ching-chi in 1672.
  • Provenance

    Kong Yiweng ??? [1]
    Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), method of acquisition unknown [2]
    Sale, New York, American Art Association, "Arms and armor of old Japan" February 8-10, 1906, lot 30 [3]
    Charles Lang Freer, purchased at American Art Association sale [4]
    Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer [5]
    [1] According to the inscriptions on the screen, the work was made for Kong Yiweng
    ???, a sobriquet for a man identified
    as Kong Zhenlai ???. He was a descendent of Confucius and served in the Qing dynasty as a government official with service in both military and civil posts. Yunan was one of many provinces in which he served. Huang Jingji, a fellow townsman and admirer of Kong Yiweng, wrote the encomium on the reverse of the screen. It is plausible that Huang Jingji was involved in the commission to create the screen to present as a gift to Kong, likely for an advanced-age birthday. It is unclear if the screen was made as a gift from only Huang, or more likely from
    several unnamed people
    [2] A former Buddhist monk, Matsuki Bunkio (1867-1940) moved to the United States in 1888 and settled near Boston and restyled himself as Bunkio Matsuki. He became a dealer in Japanese antiquities, opening a gallery along Boston's fashionable Boylston Street. See note 1.
    [3] See American Art Association, "Arms and Armor of Old Japan" [auction catalogue] (New York, February 8-10, 1906), lot 304. The object is described as "A superb work of art, incomparable in its importance. It was executed in 1672 (11th year of Kang- Hi) [sic; should be Kang-hsi] as a gift to the imperial Prince Yoku-wo-ko [sic; in Chinese Kong Yiweng, and he was not a prince], from his friends and admirers on his return to the capital from the governorship of the Province of Un-nan [Yunan]."
    [4] See voucher No. 12, where the object is described as "One Chinese Palace Screen, 12 fold, No. 304 of Matsuki Catalogue of 1906," from Box 114, Folder 2, Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, copy in object file.
    [5] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.
    Research completed on August 11, 2022.
  • Collection

    Freer Gallery of Art Collection
  • Exhibition History

    Palace Life Unfolds: Conserving a Chinese Lacquer Screen (July 15, 2023 to January 28, 2024)
    Bicentennial Exhibition: Chinese Art (December 5, 1975 to November 10, 1976)
    Chinese Art (January 1, 1963 to March 6, 1981)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Bunkio Matsuki 松木文恭 (1867-1940) (C.L. Freer source)
    Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
    Kong Yiweng (Kong Yiweng ???)
  • Origin

  • Credit Line

    Gift of Charles Lang Freer
  • Type

    Furniture and Furnishing
  • On View

    Sackler Gallery 22c: Palace Life Unfolds: Conserving a Chinese Lacquer Screen
  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

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