MFA announces largest donation of Chinese paintings and calligraphy in its history
The Museum announced in December 2018 the largest and most significant gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy in the MFA’s history: the Wan-go H. C. Weng Collection, comprising 183 objects acquired by and passed down through six generations of a single family. The collection is named for Wan-go H. C. Weng, one of the most respected collectors and connoisseurs of Chinese painting in the world, and the great-great-grandson of the preeminent scholar Weng Tonghe (1830–1904), who assembled the core of the collection during the 19th century.
The Weng Collection is considered among the greatest private collections of Chinese art in the US, distinguished for its superb quality, abundance of works by the great masters of Chinese art, fine condition, and well-documented provenance. Encompassing 130 paintings, 31 works of calligraphy, 18 ink rubbings, and four textiles, the gift spans 13 centuries and five imperial dynasties. Particularly rich in its representation of art from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) eras, the collection complements the MFA’s unparalleled and internationally renowned holdings of masterpieces from the earlier Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1279–1368) dynasties. Weng has been a longtime supporter of the Museum and has donated 21 additional works to the MFA within the last decade—including Wang Hui’s 53-foot-long scroll 10,000 Miles along the Yangzi River (1699), given in honor of the collector’s 100th birthday and displayed in a solo exhibition on view July–September 2018. Weng’s most recent donation further elevates the Museum’s Chinese paintings collection into one of the foremost outside of China. An exhibition of highlights from the Weng Collection will be installed in the MFA’s Asian Painting Gallery, 178, in 2019.
The Weng Collection is remarkable not only for its masterpieces of brush and ink spanning 1,300 years, but also its unique journey to the MFA, having been assembled by and passed down through one of China’s most notable families. The scholar and connoisseur Weng Tonghe (1830–1904), who acquired the greater part of the collection, was an esteemed figure in 19th-century China. He held some of the highest positions in government, including tutor to two of the last emperors of the Qing dynasty. Passed down from father to son through six generations, the collection was most recently cared for by Wan-go Weng (b. 1918), who moved to the US in 1938. An accomplished filmmaker, poet, historian, and artist, Weng has devoted himself to the preservation and study of China’s cultural heritage.