Grandeur, abundance, panache

Large-scale and virtuoso calligraphy

Performance, dance-like reverie, intense control of gestures in time. A massive calligraphy on satin by DONG Qichang 董其昌 (1555-1636) carries all of these qualities. And like a dancer he works as an interpreter – neither the text nor the calligraphic style are his own invention, even as they provide a stage for creative expression.

At the age of sixty he is at ease in the material, but it is demanding; the satin absorbs the ink quickly, it is unforgiving of any careless pause. He begins with a measure of caution, the ink slips out of the intended forms, blotting. The initial characters (on the right) are slow, formal. Gradually, these difficulties are surmounted.

DONG Qichang 董其昌 (1555-1636)
Poem in cursive (dated 1615) (detail)
Hand scroll, ink on satin
53.3 x 910 cm.
Private collection