A Scholar in his Mountain Studio

Artist: Gao Cen (active 1640s-1679)
Calligrapher: Zhou Lianggong (1612-1672) Cao Erkan (1617-1679)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, mid 17th century
Two album leaves mounted as hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
H x W (each): 24.7 x 32 cm (9 3/4 x 12 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Customs Service, Department of the Treasury
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaves (mounted as a hanging scroll)

China, landscape, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), scholar

To 1960
Chen Rentao (1906-1968), Hong Kong, and Frank Caro, C. T. Loo & Co., New York, to 1960 [1]

From 1960 to 1979
Department of Treasury, U. S. Customs Service [2]

From 1979
Freer Gallery of Art, from October 23, 1979 [3]

[1] This object is one of a group of 88 objects (F80.104-F80.180, FSC-S-22-25 and FSC-O-11a-h) seized in 1960 by the U.S. Customs Service, Department of the Treasury, from the dealer and collector Chen Rentao, Hong Kong and Frank Caro of C. T. Loo & Co., New York. The objects were deemed to have been introduced into the commerce of the United States in violation of 19 U.S.C. 1592 (Trade with Communist China).

[2] See note 1. The object’s ownership title is based on the settlement agreement, dated November 1971, between the United States, Chen Tung Siang Wen, the executrix for Chen Rentao Estate, and Frank Caro, copy in object file. See U.S. Customs Service Memorandum, April 23, 1979 and a letter from Thadeus Rojek, Chief Counsel, Department of the Treasury, U.S. Custom Service, to Marie C. Malaro, Assistant General Counsel, Smithsonian Institution, dated November 29, 1979, copy in object file. The objects remained in the custody of the U.S. Customs Service office in New York until 1979.

[3] The object was transferred to the Freer Gallery of Art on October 23, 1979.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

U.S. Customs Service
Frank Caro 1904-1980
Chen Rentao 1906-1968


A wealthy native of Nanjing, Zhou Lianggong was one of the most prominent collectors and patrons of the arts during the mid-seventeenth century. He held office under the Ming dynasty in its closing days and continued to serve in government after the fall of Nanjing to Manchu conquerors in 1645. As a collector and patron, Zhou was especially interested in contemporary artists who lived and worked in his hometown, such as the painter of this idyllic landscape, Gao Cen. Zhou composed and later published a series of valuable biographical sketches of these artists, one of which is mounted here above the album leaf by Gao. Writing in 1651, he described his friend as follows:
"Gao Cen has a beard and whiskers like a halberd's blade and looks like someone who should be wearing embroidered robes and sitting on a noble steed, but actually he is quite infatuated with Buddhism. . . . In his youth, Gao studied painting with his fellow townsman, Zhu Hanzhi [Zhu Ruiwu, ca. 1594-ca. 1671], but later on he followed his own ideas. The paintings in this album were all executed at a mountain temple in the southern suburbs [of Nanjing] among the shadows of pines and the murmur of brooks. Excluding all the hustle and bustle [of the workaday world], they lead one calmly into place of tranquillity. . . . "

Published References
  • Nakata Yujiro, Fu Shen. O-bei shuzo Chugoku hosho meiseki shu [Masterpieces of Chinese Calligraphy in American and European Collections]. 6 vols., Tokyo, 1981-1983. vol. 6: pl. 43.
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 16, pp. 54-55.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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