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Pascal Grange. Supporting Treasures: Chinese Display Stands as Arbiters of Taste

Two authors of the late Ming (1368–1644) to early Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Li Yu (1611–79) and Wen Zhenheng (1585–1645), left influential notes on all aspects of elegant living. They came from vastly different social backgrounds. Li led the adventurous life of a playwright, whereas Wen, a great-grandson of Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), one of the Four Great Masters of painting in the Ming dynasty, belonged to an illustrious family of scholars. Wen’s taste was marked by understatement and restraint, and strove to make a distinction between the desirable quality of elegance (ya) and the much-dreaded vulgarity (su). On the other hand, Li’s ideas tended towards the baroque. For instance, he enjoyed pasting a polygonal patchwork of paper onto the walls of a room to imitate the appearance of craquelure in Ge ware ceramics (Dars, 2003, p. 120). However, the two arbiters of taste agreed on the importance of stands for displaying artworks.

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Mar/Apr 2018
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