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The Hand Scroll

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The Hand Scroll

Până la D L Morton

Lungime: 455 pagini7 ore


A recently discovered hand scroll ends up on the work table of Lia, an expert who repairs paintings and researches their contents and histories. The scroll is tightly rolled, fragile and extremely brittle. She hires Jon, a part Chinese calligrapher/painter, to assist her in rolling it out and doing repair painting as necessary. Jon studied calligraphy with his grandfather, whose parents immigrated from Beijing early in the twentieth century. The sexual attraction is immediate and within days, she and Jon become lovers.
Lia recognizes the opening scene as a copy of the landscape depicted in China's most famous painting, Spring Festival Along the River. Further along in the scroll, buildings, boats, and the famous Rainbow Bridge appear, with lines and colors of a crispness and clarity that suggest the brush of Qiu Ying, a professional and one of the Four Great Painters of the Ming Dynasty. The scroll painting is long, about seventeen feet, and for much of its length, landscape, villages, boats, and many of the figures, faithfully replicate those in the original, but with startling differences. The original scroll has few females, the copy has many. The most shocking additions to the copy are tiny scenes that grow increasingly intense and explicit, each a jewel-like vignette in the style of erotic art by Qiu Ying. The final addition is a shocking divergence from the conclusion of the original scroll.
Scientific testing dates the hand scroll to the sixteenth century, and Lia, convinced by its style that Qiu Ying painted it, argues for authenticity. If she is correct, the hand scroll is worth a fortune. Some experts agree with her, some scoff, believing that the contents and conclusion point to a modern creation. One Chinese scholar sees it as the work of a later sixteenth-century painter doing a passable job of copying the famous Qiu Ying. The issue of authenticity raises intense arguments among experts.
Who owns the scroll raises personal and legal issues. Four parties claim ownership. The scroll is Chinese, and Jon's family, based on some old correspondence with relatives in Beijing, make a secret claim, hiding behind a lawyer who demands that Lia hand over the scroll. The Chinese committee to repatriate Chinese treasures is determined to get it back and hide it from the public as a disgusting desecration of their beloved Spring Festival scroll. A local professor presses their claim. The last and perhaps most powerful claimant, based on bills of sale and other documents, might just be the richest man in Japan. Hanna and Michael possess the scroll. Hanna inherited it from an uncle who bought it from a Japanese man in Tokyo at the end of World War Two. She is furious that others are butting in and hires Jimmy to handle the legal end.
Ignoring claims and counterclaims, Lia continues repairing the scroll and ponders questions raised by the painting. Did the painter include eroticism to satisfy a patron, or for personal reasons? Do the additions to the painting reveal details about the painter's life, details that have eluded other researchers? Qiu Ying's talent was prodigious and his paintings are famous, yet almost nothing is known about the man's life, even birth and death dates are guesswork based on his earliest and last known works. Why would he turn a painting, revered even during his own century, that celebrates male public life into one that appears to focus on a girl? Was it love? His one great love?
Lia hasn't found true love either. Recognizing that she has always been drawn to bad boys, she still can't resist Jon even as she is strongly attracted to Jimmy, the lawyer hired by Hanna to protect her interests. The scroll might be an art world bombshell. It definitely explodes in Lia's life, forcing her to make surprising personal choices.

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