Image: 66 7/8 x 40 1/4 in. (169.9 x 102.2 cm)
Overall with mounting: 103 x 41 1/4 in. (261.6 x 104.8 cm)
Overall with knobs: 103 x 45 7/8 in. (261.6 x 116.5 cm)
Purchase, The Dillon Fund and The B. Y. Lam Foundation Gifts, 1995
Not on view
This monumental flower-and-bird composition shows the Uighur Bian Lu working in the highly polished tradition of the Song Imperial Painting Academy. Only the calligraphic character of the drawing, particularly noticeable in the rhythmic outlines of the leaves, betrays its fourteenth-century date.
The meticulously detailed plumage of the peacock, the gritty texture of the rock, and the delicately shaded leaves and blossoms are a tour de force of representational illusionism. The bird's pose, dramatically balanced on one leg as it prepares to take another step, may refer to a famous anecdote about the Song emperor Huizong, who chided his court painters for failing to observe that when climbing, the peacock always takes the first step with its left leg.
Inscription: Artist’s signature (1 column in standard script)