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Scroll Paintings (Part 2)

Vanessa Tothill continues her look at the magnificent scroll paintings at Maidstone Museum
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Scroll Paintings in Maidstone Museum’s Collection (Part 2)

Vanessa Tothill
21st Aug 2016
By Vanessa Tothill

Continuing Vanessa Tothill’s series on scroll paintings kept at Maidstone Museum, our Japanese cataloguer looks at two paintings by former Chinese Viceroy, Duan Fang.

If you read the first part of our look at the scroll paintings of Maidstone Museum, you’ll recall that our Japanese Cataloguer Vanessa examined artwork by Japanese artist Hôen Yoshiteru (芳園吉輝). The collection has some curiosities that embody complex diplomatic and cultural relationships between China, Japan and the West, and that deciding whether a painting is Japanese or Chinese is not always easy – even for Japanese and Chinese painting specialists.

Also of interest are two paintings by Duan Fang (端方題記). These paintings combine text and image and are stone rubbings (mo tapian 墨拓片). The first scroll includes a rubbing of an ancient Egyptian stone carving depicting an Egyptian man and woman, now thought to be private individuals and not a pharaoh and his queen. Duan Fang’s inscription on the scrolls, and the wording of his seals, translates as: ‘My collection of Ancient carvings from Egypt from 5000 years ago.’ The second scroll by Duan Fang is another ink rubbing of an Egyptian relic from a priest’s tomb engraved with hieroglyphics.

Duan Fang (1861-1911) served as the Chinese Viceroy (Viceroy of Min-Zhe) during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), and visited continental Europe and Great Britain for the first time in 1905. These stone rubbings of Egyptian monuments were received by Admiral Charles Moore as a gift from the Chinese Viceroy in 1909. Duan Fang was an enthusiastic collector of Egyptian archaeology at a time when it was extremely unusual for the Chinese to collect foreign artefacts. This passion is reflected in Duan Fang’s stone rubbings of the objects in his private collection, which he then presented as diplomatic gifts.

The process of taking a rubbing from a stone involves wetting a sheet of paper and placing it upon the surface of the engraved stone. The wet paper is secured in place and encouraged to sink into the crevices of the stone, this is achieved using a stiff brush and a vertical jabbing motion. Ink is then gradually applied to the paper using ink pads, again a firm patting motion is used. As the layers of ink build up on the surface of the paper, the engraved design of the stone appears. A demonstration can be seen here: