Landscapes in the Manner of Old Masters

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Artist: Bian Wenyu (1576-1655)
Colophon: Colophon by Wang Hui (1632-1717)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1650
Album of ten leaves; ink on paper
H x W (each image): 25.5 x 17.6 cm (10 1/16 x 6 15/16 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


China, fishing, landscape, mountain, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

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 native of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, Bian Wenyu belonged an elite circle of late-Ming-dynasty artists headed by Dong Qichang (1555-1636), who strongly emphasized the technical mastery of brushwork and advocated the emulation of masters from the Song and Yuan dynasties (10th-14th century).

Bian's approach to brushwork is described in a 1705 excerpt by the preeminent painter of the next generation, Wang Hui (1632-1717):

Whenever I watched [Bian] paint, his strokes
penetrated straight to the back of the paper with
the spontaneous alacrity and calm assurance of
a calligrapher, while the power of his wrist was
even yet more incomparable. In this album,
Bian's motivating taste appears everywhere in
the spiritual resonance and structural composition [of the paintings]. . . .

Translation by Stephen D. Allee

Published References
  • Chen Rentao. Chin-kuei ts'ang-hua chi [Chinese Paintings in the King Kwei Collection]. Kyoto. pl. 36.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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