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Assistance reading text / opinion on painting with Min Zhen seal

Posted By: rat
Posted Date: Sep 01, 2020 (02:47 PM)

Thanks for the research you have already done. As you have noticed there are a number of things that indicate this isn't by Min, but to address your specific questions:

1. The inscription gives a date, the cyclical year 戊午 followed by the season 秋 (autumn) and the name/signature Min Zhen 閔貞, here with the surname simplified to 闵. Min was born in 1730 and died in 1788, and the only 戊午 year that falls within his lifetime corresponds to 1738, but it is quite unlikely that he painted this when he was 8 years old. Further, the handwriting here is very unlike his own handwriting, which was usually a somewhat wild cursive. So the date and handwriting are inconsistent with Min Zhen.

2. As you noticed, frayed edges are not the typical presentation for a hanging scroll, except if the idea is to convey an artificial sense of the scroll's age by distressing the mounting (indeed old paintings are sometimes damaged along the edges, usually nearer the top, but this is wholesale shredding and does not show evidence of actual wear). Paintings are almost always backed with one or more layers of firmer paper, and then strips of silk brocade are cut and pasted surrounding the painting surface as a sort of framing device. It seems that the backing paper on yours does not extend past the painting surface as would usually be the case.

3. I think your research and inferences have pointed you in the right direction. Although the seal may be a facsimile of an actual Min Zhen seal (haven't checked), photography and the publication of paintings since the early 20th century have made replicating seals increasingly straightforward, nowadays via digital means and with corresponding accuracy. More relevant are the stylistic differences between this picture and accepted works by Min, which as you note are mostly figures. His landscapes too are in a very different style from this one in terms of both brushwork (bolder) and use of color (more for emphasis than comprehensiveness). Genuine paintings can lack collectors' seals, but those paintings that include them create a chain of provenance if the owner of the seals can be discovered. Some pictures today are stamped with all sorts of famous people's seals, but many such pictures are easily identified as fraudulent despite the growing accuracy of good fakes. Creating false provenance is done too, but is a lot more work than most forgers care to pursue. I would think that your picture wasn't painted earlier than the 1990s, but may be considerably more recent than that.

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