| Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries

Visitors' Forum

Asian Art  Forums - Detail List
Asian Art Forums

Message Listing by Date:
Message Index | Back | Post a New Message | Search | Private Mail | FAQ
Subject:Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Bill H Sun, Sep 09, 2018 IP:

I was browsing the web recently and found the catalog for a Bonhams auction in Hong Kong on 20 November 2016 (see link to pdf catalog). Lot 42 was three porcelain plaques by Wang Qi (1884-1937), one of the 'Eight Friends of Zhushan. I tried to translate the three seals and may have gotten two (or maybe one and a half), but the third one just sat there looking back at me smugly. It has a large zhuanshu character as the background, with what I think may be two smaller ones layered in the forefront. I've posted pictures of the three seals below, with hopes for interesting MikeOz, I Nagy or anyone else who might wish to offer opinions on the conundrum.

Much obliged,

Bill H.


Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: mikeoz Sun, Sep 09, 2018

Dear Bill,

Thanks for the compliment. I don't see any characters emerging, but suggest it is a depiction of the sacred turtle (one of the four sacred creatures - Phoenix, qilin, dragon and our friend here).

And I like your readings of the other 'seals'.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: rat Sun, Sep 09, 2018

Seal 2 is 文融画 rather than 文就开心. I don't have the answer for Seal 3, but it looks like three superimposed "seal" legends, and that just like the left half of seal 2, all three are read as white characters on a red background. The second largest appears to be 王, but I don't believe that the smallest is 奇, or that the largest contains any of the 别号 listed in the bio in the Bonham's catalog.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: merely Mon, Sep 10, 2018

Dear Bill and others,
These seals are hand painted, so is it right if I say the quality of the seals may different from one wang qi porcelain piece to the other pieces ? or is it possible authentic porcelain by Wang qi bearing nearly unreadable seals ?

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Bill H Mon, Sep 10, 2018

Thanks a bunch, MikeOz and Rat. Your joint input will help me sleep better tonight, especially by knowing I'm not alone in the world in being unable to wrap my mind around some of this stuff.

Regarding the seal in the middle, anyone think 交融画 (Jiao rong hua) might fit? It's in the dictionary as "blended", and would mean "Harmonious Painting" in the context of the plaque, It's also very close in its zhuanshu form to what's seen in this seal.

Very much obliged,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: rat Mon, Sep 10, 2018

To be slightly more clear, these plaques are not by Wang Qi (whose given name is 琦 rather than the 奇 I think I wrote yesterday). Rather they are by Xiong Wenrong 熊文融, a ceramics painter working around the same time as Wang Qi. The first two Bonham's plaques include inscriptions containing 文融, one with his full name 熊文融. The 奇思轩 legend of Bill H's Seal 1 is Xiong's studio name.

A look online for related works shows this plaque, which has a similar seal to Bill H's Seal 3: one seal superimposed on another, and also includes the studio name 奇思轩:

Only the third plaque, which contains Seal 3, is signed as Wang Qi. However, Wang Qi's work looked like the following in 1931:

So we have two plaques by the lesser Xiong Wenrong, and one attributed to Wang Qi that may not be genuine.
Bonham's dropped the ball on this one.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Bill H Mon, Sep 10, 2018

During Wang Qi's lifetime, any number of other scholars and artists besides him had studied major styles of calligraphy and the esoteric art of seal carving and its "zhuanshu" character set, which were necessities for anyone to aspire to claim the title "scholar" honestly. So there was no shortage of people who could read any of his seals at the time.

China began teaching simplified characters in the 1950s, after which time the vast majority of its people were put to work reconstructing the great damage inflicted on that country by World War II and the generation-long civil war. At the risk of oversimplifying, History would indicate that things like the study of seal script was a luxury only a relatively small minority could enjoy. However, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the 1960's soon turned "Scholar" into a dirty word for many.

I sometimes take a peek at threads in some of the Chinese-language porcelain forums, wherein queries frequently ask the same thing I'm asking here; that being what does that seal-writing say. It's a wise move on their part, I think, because of the flood of trashy made-in-China art that abounds in and outside of the Mainland with faux marks of Wang Qi and other famous artists.

I have no doubt that the plaque that bore this enigmatic mark I'm trying to unravel is authentically by Wang Qi. In fact, I've since found that Christies at South Kensington in London sold another plaque four years ago with what, in their smallish online picture, looks to be another mark like the unreadable one here. In that auction listing, someone had translated the mark in pinyin as "Xicang', which I would guess to be "稀藏" or "希藏", both leading off with variants of the same character and meaning "Rare Collection" or "Admirable Collection". I include the image of the Christies plaque herewith. It is seen on a lot of Chinese web pages that apparently are not related directly to the auction house.

Back to your question, it's a fact that lots of people find Wang Qi's seals unreadable, because they don't have the scholarly skills needed for the task. It also would take an artist with greater skills that those who are making the vast majority of the poor fakes attributed to him nowadays. Moreover, the pigments available to Wang Qi differed in some cases from those commonly used now. But since lots of money is involved in this market , you can bet the artist who'll fool us all is in training somewhere right now.

Best regards,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Merely Tue, Sep 11, 2018

Don't you think the last seal usually translated as Qichang ?
Here other porcelain paintings by Wangqi from Artnet Data Base.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Bill H Tue, Sep 11, 2018

Rat, your initial comment sort of filtered through as a tacit endorsement of Bonham's description. By last night, though, I'd found another Sotheby's auction for a Wang Qi plaque (link & image of marks below). However, even Sotheby's description lacked a translation with characters for the mark. So I gather an evident truth from this experience that efforts to elevate my understanding of zhuanshu and the artists who used it are best focused right here in the forum instead on what I read in the auction listings.

Merely, thanks for your efforts to nudge me back on the right track too. What would those characters be for "Qichang"? I believe the bottom seal is "Taomi" (陶迷), with the "Mi" character being easily confused with the "Zhai" character in Wang's studio name of "Taotao Zhai" (匋匋齋).

Best regards,

Bill H

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Merely Wed, Sep 12, 2018

Here are two Wang Qi studio seals from Simon Kwan book.

As far as I know, Wang Qi seal in most modern reproduction piece is good looking (close) but in old reproduction looking bad, probably because modern artists already know the seal well from many publications so the seal in modern reproduction is good looking.

Just asking Bill, why don't you (with your great expertise) talking about Wang Qi painting as a whole (his painting style, enamels, subjects etc), not only the seals. Most Wang QI porcelain painting that we know today are his painting in free style after he got influence from Qing painter Huang Shen, whereas he also painted porcelains in Gong bi style and portrait painting ?

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Bill H Thu, Sep 13, 2018

In my estimation, if I don't learn the seals, I'll never be entirely certain whether I'm looking at Wang Qi's works or not. Of course, since he was being imitated in his lifetime, this may be a moot point forever. But I do know that the two mark's from Simon Kwan's book are Wang Qi's studio name of Taotao Zhai, and if Simon says it's so, I'll believe it until further notice.

As to that third mark, heretofore as mysterious to me as Graham Green's 'Third Man' film plot, I believe I have solved it. Actually it was 'solved' weeks ago, when I filed away an online list of data on porcelain artists, and had yet to find time to read down the list far enough to see how Wang's seal is based on his native place in Sichuan. I've done a graphic explanation, using as the basis seals from a Wang Qi vase with 'Buffalo Boy' motif sold by Sotheby's on 3 June 2016. Hopefully, Sotheby's got it's attribution right the first time.

Now that I seem to have solved my riddle, with plenty of help from friends, it would seem I have a starting point toward sorting out some of the fakes. Maybe I'll also make good on an old promise to myself to acquire a copy of Mr. Kwan's book.

Thanks to all,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: rat Fri, Sep 14, 2018

nice find!

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: rat Wed, Sep 12, 2018

Yeah I wasn't sure what I was looking at first, but when you asked about Wenrong not being right I took a closer look and discovered that the first two are by Xiong Wenrong and the third is supposedly by Wang but there's not much evidence that it is.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Merely Fri, Sep 14, 2018

Maybe my understanding on Wang Qi still far below you, so if I see wang qi painting with very good seals I still confuse whether it is really Wang qi or not as in modern reproductions the seal is so closed. Below are wang qi seals in reproduction and they look very close to authentic Wang Qi. Modern reproduction usually made in recent ten years ago when prices for Zhushan bayou painting become high. In modern days, if they can copy Wang qi painting so it is also easy for modern artist to copy the seals. This is not the case in old copy painted during his lifetime where the information still limited, therefore the seals in old copy usually have bad looking or even blurry.

I usually see the painting style first, whether it is painted in free style or gong bi style. The use of colours in Wang Qi free style painting usually limited and not bright. But if it is painted in gong bi style the colours is rich, colourful and bright similar to others members of Zhusan Bayao paintings who applied Gong bi style. The use of rich colours is power in gong bi style paintings. The enamels also my consideration.Wang QI enamel usually look powdery texture. This is only my understanding.

Subject:Re: Wang Qi Porcelain Markings
Posted By: Bill H Sun, Sep 16, 2018

Until I can absorb more of an understanding of Wang's unique points of style, I believe I'll just trust Sotheby's, Christie's and Rat to prop up my standards on correct seals.

I've already developed some doubt regarding what I previously surmised was Wang's inspiration for the seal beginning with 'Xichang'(西昌 - literally 'Western Brilliance'), since I've not been able to re-locate the inspiration for my own original thoughts regarding it being the ethnic Yi people's homeland in Sichuan. However, Wang's birthplace in Jiangxi Province was at Xinjian, which I checked on a hunch and confirmed is in the western sector of the capital, Nanchang (南昌 - Literally 'Southern Brilliance'). So it seems to me that calling himself "Wang from 'West Chang' instead of 'South Chang' might be a natural pun. Anyway, I'm still looking for a more authoritative source than my hunch.

For posterity, here are somewhat clearer versions (hopefully) of all three of the seals from that Wang Qi 'Buffalo Boy' vase, with the addition at right of Wang's studio seal, 'Taotao Zhai'. The character 'Tao' (陶) usually is 'Pottery' but here it has an alternate reading of 'Contented'. The character in the middle, 'Er' (二 - 'Two' or 'Twice'), signals repetition of 'Tao', which intensifies the meaning of the mark to 'Studio of Great Contentment'.

Best regards,

Bill H. | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |