Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on alum paper
7 1/4 x 21 in. (18.4 x 53.3 cm)
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Not on view
Zhü Chao left Guangdong to serve as secretary to the official Zhang Jingxiu in Guangxi during the uprisings of the Taiping. After Zhang's retirement in 1856, Zhü Chao and his cousin Zhü Lian lived at Zhang's celebrated garden estate in Guangdong and taught painting to Zhang's young nephew. In his fifties, Zhü Chao returned to his own villa and maintained a quiet life painting and studying Han seals.
This tightly drawn depiction of silk moths and of silkworms on mulberry leaves reveals Zhü Chao's playful and observant interest in unconventional subjects. He and his cousin were criticized by a contemporary Guangdong critic for choosing to paint such insignificant subjects as flies, fireflies, mosquitoes and ants. Zheng Qi, for instance, wrote:
Certain artists only specialize in these to demonstrate their technical proficiency. How could they have taken such a crooked path; how can we discuss the principles of painting with them?
Signature: Sketched by Zhu Chao Dated: Summer of 1859
Artist's seal: Laochao (square, white characters)
Artist's inscription: Dedicated to Runan
Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Painting: Selections from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," February 2, 1988–September 25, 1988.