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Old Masters Repainted: Wu Zhen (1280-1354) Prime Objects and Accretions
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The study of Chinese painting in Taiwan, China and America today centres largely around works ascribed to celebrated old masters. Thesehave been passed down over the centuries in private and imperial collections. Over the past millennium collectors acquired paintings asan index to their mental and spiritual cultivation which served to enhance upward social mobility. For artists, on the other hand, copying a masterpiece that could be mistaken for the original brought the highest praise, and those able to create inspiring variations on favoured old masters could lay claim to the status of master themselves. The need among collectors for ancient paintings and the widespread ability among painters to work in ancient styles created anactive commerce where works by less inspired painters affixed with celebrated names were circulated as masterpieces. Countless such attributions have been gathered into famous collections, and today continue to vie for pride of place in major art centres. After intenseclose-up examination of groups of attributions, Joan Stanley-Baker shows that an overwhelming proportion of works assigned to pre-seventeenth century artists are of later vintage, made from within oneto several centuries after their putative dates. Stanley-Baker's uncompromising premise that all attributions to old masters must remain suspect until shown to be genuine beyond reasonable doubt has given her enquiry a rare intellectual edge. Combining for the first time three hitherto distinct traditions of appraisal and analysis, sheintroduces a system of checks and balances that facilitates the identification of original works and the dating of posthumous additions with a greater degree of assurance than has been heretofore evinced in either traditional connoisseurship or contemporary scholarship. Turning a new leaf in art history, she views the oeuvre ascribed to an old master as a centuries-long series of images that reflect the changing perceptions of his style and persona. She deals with the traditionally avoided reality of accretions by introducing categories of stylistic distance that separate later additions from original prime objects.

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 Stanley-Baker, Joan.
 Hong Kong University Press
 Painting, Chinese.  Wu, Chen,--1280-1354--Criticism and interpretation.
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