Much like the “Sepia Lady” a pattern seems to follow the “Rusted Duke”–in this case, it is always given as a gift, and the person who bestows it seems to have a major tragedy occur not long after, up to and including their own death. The painting left the hands of the Russian government during the Revolution, when it was smuggled abroad to Harbin in China. When Harbin was taken by Japan, the painting was given to a Kwantung Army captain as a bribe, who in turn gave it to the one of the commanders of the infamous Unit 731 biological experimentation unit. Amused by its provenance, the commander adorned his office with it during the worst period of Unit 731’s atrocities.

The “Rusted Duke” is believed to reside in China still, though its exact location is disputed. Likely candidates include the underground annex of the National Museum of China in Beijing, the secret Ministry of Culture warehouse in Xianjin, or the Beiyang Cultural Preservation Complex near Dalian. It’s been claimed that an official desire to destroy the work has, so far, been balanced by its great value.

Former premier Deng Xioping reportedly considered offering the painting as a goodwill gift to Franz Vranitzky in 1989. He was said to find the idea “side-splitting” but was ultimately dissuaded by an aide, who feared the fates of the others who had gifted the portrait would befall his leader.

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