Forgeries of Bada Shanren Album

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Artist: Zhang Daqian 張大千 (China, 1899-1983)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, 1899-1983
Ink on paper
H x W (b-h: image): 25.5 x 22.8 cm (10 1/16 x 9 in)
Credit Line
Purchase ā€” Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting


China, cursive script, fish, forgery, Modern period (1912 - present)

To 1991
Hai-Sheng Chou, Taipei, Taiwan, to 1991 [1]

From 1991
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Hai-Sheng Chou in 1991


[1] According to Shen C. Y. Fu, the object left mainland China around 1949, and passed through the hands of a number of dealers and collectors in Taiwan before ending up with Mr. Hai-Sheng Chou (see Curatorial Note 6, Shen C. Y. Fu, October 26, 1990, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Hai-Sheng Chou


In his forgery of Bada Shanren's album (see F1955.21), which he once owned, Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), one of the greatest traditional Chinese painters of the twentieth century and a major forger of Bada's works, closely replicated almost every aspect of the original, including the style and execution of the artist's signatures and seals, but he also altered certain features to enhance the apparent value and appeal of the work.

In the original album, the ten facing leaves of calligraphy are unsigned, but have been identified with an otherwise unknown Buddhist monk named Fayi, based on the presence of his seals on seven of the ten leaves. While Zhang accurately duplicated the freely expressive style of Fayi's original calligraphy, he cleverly changed the seals to those of one Niu Shihui, a seventeenth-century Chan (Zen) monk and individualist painter, who was rumored to be an imperial relative of Bada's, perhaps even his brother. By replacing a totally unknown calligrapher (Fayi) with one whose name is tantalizingly linked to Bada, but whose real works are rare and generally unfamiliar, Zhang undoubtedly hoped to whet the appetite of contemporary collectors, increase his asking price, and challenge the scholarly expertise of his fellow connoisseurs. Zhang's forgery is revealed, however, by two important details of execution. Instead of Bada's flat, angular brushwork, Zhang held his brush in an upright position, thereby using the resilient tip to create more linear and rounded brushstrokes, a technique that Bada did not begin to employ until the early 1690s.

As a result, Zhang's brushstrokes are broader, more even, and far less angular than those created by Bada, who held his brush at a slant. Secondly, Zhang's ink is comparatively pale and thin, and shows little of the layering typically found in genuine works by Bada Shanren. Despite these discrepancies, Zhang's skillful forgery would be difficult to differentiate from a genuine work without having the original for comparison.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
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