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This is the drastically rewritten and greatly shortened Chinagate article that appeared in The Times, complete with typos. The author was presented with this truncated, toned-down version with about 10 minutes to go before final deadline and asked if he wanted his byline on it. He reluctantly agreed as he had insufficient time to recover from his shock.

The New York Times, April 14, 1976, p. 25

Now Oriental Art

Is Under Scrutiny

Research Once Limited to

Western Works Widened

By Carter B. Horsley

Did the artist really do the painting, and if so, when? Or was it done by a talented apprentice? Such questions, long pondered by scholars of Western Art, are now beginning to surface in the more esoteric field of Oriental art, as the latter is increasingly shown on the museum circuit.

The more ancient the art the less solvable such questions are by scholarly methods, particularly when, as in some Oriental arts, there is a long tradition of copying. But scholars, trained to be disputatious, continue to whet their wits by posing - and sometimes answering - them.

The latest provocation for such dispute in the Oriental field is a group of 25 early Chinese paintings acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $2.5 million in 1973, some of which are now on view at the museum in an exhibition of Chinese landscapes.

Several paintings in the group, including at least one that is the exhibition, have prompted questions from scholars regarding their attribution. In addition, two officials of other leading museums say that the grading system used in appraising the paintings, at the Metropolitan's request, has been publicly disclosed in misleading fashion by the museum.

So far, the Metropolitan has published three books about the collection, which was purchased from Chi Chuan Wang, a New York collector and dealer. The museum is standing by its previous statements about the purchase, described by Thomas P. F. Hoving, director of the Metropolitan, as "one of the finer moments in the collecting history of the institution."

The catalogue was done by Wen Fong, Edwards Sanford Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, a consultant since 1971 to the museum's department of Far Eastern art, who made the selection from Mr. Wang's collection for the museum.

The catalogue flatly attributions 20 of the 25 paintings to leading masters of the Sung and Yuan dynasties, dating from the latter part of the 10th century through the middle of the 14th, a century generally regarded as the high point of Chinese painting. Mr. Fong said that the attributions were his "considered best judgments."

In an article in the last issue of the journal Artibus Asiae, 1975, Ellen Johnson Laing discussed a painting, "Knick-knack Peddler," attributed by the Metropolitan to Li-Sung, who flourished between 1190 and 1230, maintaining that several technical aspects of the painting were not on a part with three signed and dated versions by the same artists and one other work "which can be unequivocally accepted as genuine."

In The Times Literary Supplement last Dec. 19 William Watson wrote a general favorable review of the Metropolitan's works showing London questioned several paintings. Of "Summer Mountains," centerpiece of the museum's exhibition, and attributed by it to Ch's Ting, active about 1203 to 1056, he said that since the artist's work was unknown except by literary notice, the painting could not be "easily attributed by style."

He also had reservations about paintings attributed to Ch'ien Hsuan (1235-1300), Li T'ang (1050-1130), Ni Tsan (1301-1374) and Chao Meng-fu (1254-1322).

As for the Metropolitan's grading system, according to a press release issued by the museum, Sherman Lee, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art; Laurence Sickman, director of the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, and Richard Barnhart, a scholar who is cataloging the Wang collection, were asked to "grade each work from A, the category of highest quality, to D, unacceptable."

But none of the three agreed on the basis on which they were grading the works. In separate interviews, Mr. Barnhart accepted the Metropolitan's criteria, but Mr. Lee and Mr. Sickman did not.

In Mr. Lee's version of the grading of the 22 paintings he "marked" he indicated that he felt seven were not by the artists and of a different period.

Mr. Sickman said that he had used "triple A if it was really a good painting and I would want it in my collection." He gave triple A's to three works.

Thomas Lawton, the assistant director of the Freer Gallery, said in an interview that a letter who wrote to the Metropolitan at its request praising the quality of Mr. Wang's entire collection was excerpted by the museum for public release so that the praise seemed to refer to those works it had selected. "I was rather surprised," Mr. Lawton declared in an interview, "when I got to the opening and did not see some of the very important paintings included."

Original, untruncated, fully-edited-by-Times-editors story


Chinagate Revisited: The Tang Gift

New York Post, in lead article of its Page Six column, reports on the controversy disclosed in The City Review

Major donor of Chinese paintings at Metropolitan says museum violated contract and threatens to take back paintings and also disputes some of the extravagant claims by the museum about centerpiece of recent Tang gift of paintings from C.C.Wang collection

The City Review's Chinagate coverage makes Page Six of The New York Post the second time in four days


The New Yorker magazine quotes expert with serious doubts about centerpiece of recent Tang gift, doubts that were first raised in The City Review, and discloses that C. C. Wang plans to auction 40 works at Sotheby's where his grandson is the "resident Chinese-painting expert."

Orientations Magazine carries two long commentaries on controversial attributions at Metropolitan Museum

Letter from The City Review sent to, but unpublished in, Orientations Magazine

Metropolitan Museum Shows C. C. Wang Collection in 1999 and concedes there are scholarly disputes over "Along the Riverbank"

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