Couplet in running-standard script

Artist: Wu Yun (1811-1883)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, mid- to late 19th century
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on woodblock-printed paper
H x W (image, each): 124.5 x 30.6 cm (49 x 12 1/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls (pair)

China, couplet, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, running-standard script

To 1997
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York City, to 1997

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1997 [1]


[1] The total gift from the Ellsworth collection consists of nearly three-hundred objects (F1997.42-.85 and F1998.83-294). All Chinese calligraphy in the proposed gift were published in Mr. Ellsworth's Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950 vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986) (see Curatorial Note 2, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


I shall forever protect the ancient bronzes in my possession,
Carefully store the famous calligraphy and paintings I own.

Wu Yun is known primarily as a scholar, collector, and celebrated connoisseur of antiquities. His vast collections contained ancient bronzes and seals, painting and calligraphy, as well as rubbings and rare books. The various objects in his collection were dispersed after his death and many can be found in Western collections, including the Freer Gallery of Art. Wu Yun was also a painter and calligrapher of some note, and served as a patron to many prominent scholars and artists, particularly those of the Stele School, who shared his passion for ancient epigraphy. Most published examples of Wu Yun's writing were rendered either in clerical script or running script, as here, in which he often followed the style of the Tang dynasty master Yan Zhenqing (709-785). Adhering mainly to the model-letters tradition, Wu generally strove for elegance and decorum in his calligraphy. Addressing Wu's interests as a collector, this couplet is typical of his writing in both content and style.

A wealthy native of Gui'an, in Zhejiang Province, Wu Yun passed the provincial examinations and started his official career in 1844 in the offices of the prefect of Suzhou. Soon after, he was made district magistrate of Baoshan for two terms. In 1858, he became prefect of Zhenjiang, on the Yangtze river in Jiangsu Province, and the following year prefect of nearby Suzhou. At the time, the area was suffering from the depredations of the Taiping rebels, who captured Suzhou during Wu Yun's temporary absence in Shanghai, where he was engaged in negotiations with the Western powers for military aid. Blamed for losing the city, he was later exonerated and participated in organizing the defense of Shanghai. In all, he served as prefect of Suzhou for some three years, after which he retired for good from public office and devoted himself to his collections.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 276, 73.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 17, pp. 114-15, 136.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 256-261.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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