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Subject:Chinese (or Japanese) Scroll with difficult script
Posted By: TKNZ Tue, Jan 29, 2019 IP:

I bought this scroll in Japan a while back, and although it came from Japan the style seems more Chinese to me. It looks old, but I know those sorts of things can be faked. The mount has definitely seen better days and it's quite creased, so if it has any historical value I'll look at having it conserved.
I have no chance of making out the inscription at the top, but was a bit puzzled as although I thought it was seal script, the triangular version of 山 below the 三 doesn't seem to be accepted as a seal character. Can anyone identify what script it's written in?
I had a go at deciphering the signature on the brown part, and the closest name I could find was 伊秉绶, but contextually that doesn't really make sense and the seals didn't seem to match.

If anyone could help with artist, age, inscription, or anything, I'd really appreciate it.


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Subject:Re: Chinese (or Japanese) Scroll with difficult script
Posted By: rat Tue, Jan 29, 2019

You are right about the top, it's signed as being by Yi Bingshou but is almost certainly an imitation. Most of the text comes from the middle of a Li Bai poem:


The script is sort of an oracle bone stylization of seal script forms, meant to look more archaic than straight seal script.

It was mounted above the painting, which is by a different artist (Japanese?) who is using a pen name in the inscription, so closeups of the seals may reveal the actual name.

Subject:Re: Chinese (or Japanese) Scroll with difficult script
Posted By: TKNZ Wed, Jan 30, 2019

Hi Rat and I. Nagy,
Thanks for your fantastic responses - I never would have gotten there by myself.

I posted on a Chinese Language forum at the same time I posted here, and they identified the artist as 吳東槐 - given he was born in 1853, Yi Bingshou would have died before then, confirming it as a (rather sloppy) fake.

I wish there was a tool like the handwriting recognition in Google Translate for seal script - I generally use that to figure out traditional and simplified characters, but when I'm met with seal script I find myself at a dead end...


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Subject:Re: Chinese (or Japanese) Scroll with difficult script
Posted By: rat Thu, Jan 31, 2019

Here are two helpful online tools, though like the reference books that exist they require you to input a standard script character and show examples to allow you to confirm whether you are correct. If you are totally stumped, reference books allow you to flip around for something similar. These tools save you time when you have a character in mind already.

This one is particularly good for oracle bone and similar archaic scripts:

This one is a compendium of a bunch of things (see the tabs at the top of the page), but for calligraphy it shows noteworthy historical examples of the character you input in various scripts. I tend to use it for grass script in particular:

In the end it's a matter of practice and pattern recognition.

Subject:Re: Chinese (or Japanese) Scroll with difficult script
Posted By: I.Nagy Wed, Jan 30, 2019

The text on the upper part of the scroll is written in
seal script It is a citation from Li Bai`s poem titled
"Climbing Phoenix Tower in Jinling"
Parts in parentheses are omitted from the insciption,
(呉宮花草埋)徑 晋代衣冠成古丘
In my rough translation it runs like,
(The Wu Palace flowers and grasses are burried under the desolate) path
Clothes and diadems of the Jin Dynasty all became an old mound
The Three Mountains and clouds are looming on the sky
The river is divided into two flows by the Egret (Island)

Signature reads,
伊秉綬 - Yi Bingshou 1754-1815
Qing Dynasty calligrapher.
Unfortunately the seal is too dim to read.
I can`t vouch for the authenticity of the work.

With regards,
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