Art/ Collection/ Art Object

清 徐祥 小鳥水仙 扇面
Birds and Narcissus

Xu Xiang (Chinese, 1850–1899)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
dated 1883
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)
Credit Line:
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Accession Number:
Not on view
Xu Xiang was first a student of Qian Huian, but later studied with Ren Yi and adopted a freer brush technique. In this fan, the easy naturalism of the pair of birds, whose white markings are used like highlights, contrasts with the rather still flower cluster frontally depicted in outline technique. Juxtaposition of different techniques and a strange lack of consistent scale combine to produce a picture that does not quite hold together, but it nonetheless describes the liberties that artists were free to take in the cosmopolitan climate of Shanghai.
Signature: Xiaocang Xu Xiang
Dated Spring 1883

Artist's seal: Seal of Xu Xiang (square, white characters)

Artist's inscription: Dedicated to Bingheng

Poem written in actional script:
Rain on the lauren blossoms-
I lean on the balustrade as spring ends.
I am a traveler- north, south, east, west;
When will I get to see them again?
Jade colors offset by a brown collar;
How can they last through the evening cold?
So many trees here in this garden;
It is hard to put them in a poem.

[Trans. by J. Chaves, C.C.]

Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth
Robert H. Ellsworth , New York (until 1986; donated to MMA)
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.

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