Art

An art collection started by a tutor to the Chinese imperial family has been donated to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

A 100-year-old filmmaker and art collector has given the collection of Chinese art his family has amassed since the 19th century to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

According to The New York Times:

Chinese artworks and artifacts that a 19th-century Chinese scholar acquired while working for emperors’ families will be given to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the museum announced Thursday.

The donor, the historian, filmmaker and collector Wan-go H.C. Weng, age 100, is a great-great-grandson of the original owner, Weng Tonghe. Starting around 1865, Weng Tonghe spent decades in imperial palaces, tutoring Qing dynasty teenagers in line for the throne while stretching his government salary to buy art.

The Weng family’s museum donation, with about 200 pieces made as early as the seventh century, includes landscape paintings, portraits, pages of calligraphy, embroidery and playing cards. (A spokeswoman said that as a rule the MFA does not reveal the values of works of art, but added that the collection is “one of the most significant gifts in the museum’s history.”)

The Boston Globe calls the gift the largest of its kind for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and makes the museum one of the largest repositories of Chinese at outside China.

According to the Globe:

Weng, who moved to New Hampshire in 1978, first connected to the museum through his own research in the 1940s, and he has been in close contact with a succession of curators and directors ever since. It afforded him a long view of the museum’s strengths and weaknesses, and how his collection might augment it.

“That was something Wan-go was very aware of for many years,” said Nancy Berliner, the museum’s curator of Chinese art. “Our collection is very strong in early Chinese paintings, from about 950 [A.D.] to 1350. But we don’t have as many masterpieces from the later periods, the Ming and Qing dynasties. His intention was to fill that gap.”