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Thread: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

  1. #1
    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    Assembling a piece of mandolin history from China. Guan Zilan (關紫蘭), daughter of a Shanghai cloth manufacturer in the early 1900s, became a professional painter and studied in Japan. Later she taught art in Shangai. She was also known as Violet Kwan

    Somewhere in the process, she became interested in the mandolin, and incorporated it into several of her paintings. These appear to be either lost or in private collections, as none of the actual paintings are on the web. However pictures from her exhibits survived. Am I wrong thinking this is a Gibson model A?

    It would be interesting to know if she picked up the mandolin in Shanghai, a booming city with lots of foreigners in the early 1900s, or if she discovered it in Japan during that period.

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ID:	170028 1930, exhibit at Shanghai Xiangyang Academy of Fine Arts, Hua'an Building.

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ID:	170018 This is her on the cover of The Young Companion magazine (also called Liangyou), about March 1930. I think the mandolin is the same as the left painting in the Shanghai Xiangyang exhibit.

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ID:	170020 The best copy I could find. Is that a Gibson A?

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ID:	170026 Another exhibit picture, either 1927 or 1930. The mandolin picture over her shoulder, showing a mandolin on a table in front of a vase of flowers, was shown repeatedly and made the Liangyou magazine about her exhibit.

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Name:	Liangyou_magazine_Number_57_Special_Exhibition_of_Ms._Guan_Zilan_in_1930.jpg 
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ID:	170027 Her exhibited photos in Liangyou magazine, issue 57, in 1931. The mandolin on the table with flowers is on this page.

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ID:	170021 Here she is with another mandolin.

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ID:	170022 One that is included in a blog, attributed to her; no other info.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    That is a Gibson A yes. There were no copies at that time with that tailpiece. She could have picked it up there or she might have had the means to travel to the US.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    Back in the 1930s, Shanghai was a most cosmopolitan city and had been under western domination for decades- the British and US control was known as the Shanghai International Settlement. The city had a thriving musical and film economy and I think it was likely she bought her mandolin in Shanghai. https://gbtimes.com/shanghais-golden-age-jazz-music

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    This is an interesting thread! Great images, and we often forget that the Mandolin community was such a global entity back then.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    Somewhat related, my wife worked as a caregiver and one of her clients showed her his mandolin after she told him I made them.
    It was a 24 A2Z and had the label of an Indian music store inside. His aunt was a missionary there in the 20's and had purchased it there.
    So you have to think about how new American instruments were sent by ship everywhere in the world. Unfortunately on this instrument nearly every seam was serparated. At some point it came from India to Colorado and over it's life had been subjected to high heat and humidity and then very dry conditions.

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    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    The trans continental shipping back then was brilliantly fast for the times, now we complain about a couple of days!
    Jim, do the owners have any interest in restoration of the Indian A2Z? What stories must surround the steamer voyage, and the whole history of that one!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  11. #7

    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    There is a Wikipedia article on this artist.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guan_Zilan
    BradKlein
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  13. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    It would appear from the Wiki that she may have a child and a grandchild that are possibly alive. It might be worthwhile to contact them regarding the mandolin.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  14. #9

    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    I have an Oscar Schmidt Hilo Hawaiian that was retailed new in Hong Kong circa 1930- the shop name is on the headstock. I don't know how long it was there because it did not suffer from the climate. Hofner advertisements from the 1930s stress that the instrument will be suitable for a tropical climate- this is a clever way of saying it was laminated. I saw a Gibson L1 for auction that had a Calcutta music store label inside and the guitar was a complete disaster-cracked and warped.

  15. #10

    Default Re: Gibson A mandolin in China, early 1930s. Guan Zilan

    Wrong thread!
    Last edited by NickR; Aug-07-2018 at 3:11am. Reason: Deleted- wrong thread!

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