Asian Art
Artist: Deng Erya, Chinese, 1884–1954

Calligraphy Couplet in Zhuanshu

first half 20th century

Pair of hanging scrolls, ink on paper

without mounting (each): 50 × 7 1/2 in. (127 × 19.1 cm)
with mounting (each): 62 5/16 × 10 1/4 in. (158.2 × 26 cm)
with rollers (each): 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
Collection of H. Christopher Luce, B.A. 1972
Born in Beijing, Deng Erya was well-known as a scholar, calligrapher, and seal engraver, as well as an expert on Chinese philology (yuwenxue, 語文学)—the history, structure, and evolution of Chinese characters. Deng’s devotion to early writing led to his book, The Origin of Chinese Characters, and when writing essays, he liked to choose “variant characters,” which were difficult to decipher. Deng wrote that brushwork and research were equally important in writing great calligraphy; he credited scholars like Wu Dacheng, saying that great calligraphers displayed elegance, neatness, and naturalness. A true epigrapher, he emphasized the importance that seal-carving played in his calligraphy. Large seal style, developed ca. 1000 B.C.E., was diverse and pictographic, but it was undesirable to rulers because its complexity hindered governmental communications. The Qin emperor wanted a uniform writing style and chose the small seal style developed ca. 700 B.C.E., which was easier to write, and its enlarged vocabulary represented concepts as well as objects. More refined, it became the standard, and is seen today being used for decorative writing and by artists seeking new forms of expression.
Not on view
Republican period (1912–49)

Sotheby's Hong Kong sale HK0634/1231; purchased in 2016 by H. Christopher Luce, New York; gifted in 2017 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018,” (accessed December 1, 2018).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.