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    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Xu Sangeng (1826-1890)

    Excerpts from the Han dynasty stele from Jizhou dealing with Zhang Yuan. Twelve double lines followed by title, date, dedication and signature. Not much information is recorded on Xu Sangeng, and the lack of any mention of an official career means that he must have functioned as a professional artist. Nevertheless, his reputation as a seal carver and his skill in calligraphy would have earned him entry into the higher levels of society. Despite the lacunae on events in his personal life, he was a very well respected artist, especially in the area of seal carving. His reputation extended to Japan, and Japanese artists visited him and sought to study under him. His study of rubbings of monuments from the Han and Six Dynasties periods allowed him to explore the creative moments of early calligraphy, before the styles of Wang Xizhi dominated the calligraphic tradition. He was also aware of other Qing artists, and toward the middle of his career was influenced by Deng Shiru (1743-1805). This fan is a good example of his style. Although the model that he mentions in his title has not been located, the writing exemplifies his style. He plays with endings, pushing and lifting the brush to modulate the line, extending and compacting the structure of characters to find new arrangements of the parts. This is one of the better pieces of calligraphy in the collection.