Unidentified Artist Chinese, active early 12th century
After Zhou Wenju (Chinese, active 940–975)
Song dynasty (960–1279)
Handscroll; ink and touches of color on silk
Image: 10 1/4 × 57 3/4 in. (26 × 146.7 cm)
Overall with mounting: 10 11/16 in. × 29 ft. 11 7/8 in. (27.1 × 914.1 cm)
Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1978
Not on view
In the Palace, a freehand copy of a tenth-century handscroll by Zhou Wenju, depicts daily life among the palace ladies of the Southern Tang emperor Li Yu (r. 961–75), a renowned patron of the arts who trained his ladies to sing and act out his lyrics.
This twelfth-century copy is not a later painting in an ancient style but an ancient work reincarnated in a later vernacular. In making his copy, the artist chose the “plain-drawing” (baimiao) style of Li Gonglin (ca. 1049–1106), whose nephew commissioned the work in 1140. Concentrating on line, the painter eliminated the colors found in the original. Figures are drawn in the type of strongly calligraphic line admiringly characterized by Song critics as “iron wire.” In this style, the brush tip is kept at the center of the brushstroke to create taut fluid lines.
The twelfth-century painting was later divided into four sections. The Metropolitan’s scroll is the fourth section. The three other sections are in the Bernard Berenson collection, near Florence, Italy; the Cleveland Museum of Art; and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature, or seal
Unidentified artist, 1 column in standard script, undated:
Unidentified Liu Yunlong yin 劉雲龍印 Jun si (half seal) 軍司（半印） Chang (half seal) 昌（半印） Dan ? 澹□ He dan zhai ? zhi yin 何澹齋□之印
Graphic seal: 1
Washington D.C. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Chinese Figure Painting," 1973.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Traditional Scholarly Values at the End of the Qing Dynasty: The Collection of Weng Tonghe (1830–1904)," June 30, 1998–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan II," March 22, 2003–September 21, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12, 2004–August 8, 2004.
Shanghai Museum. "Masterpieces of Chinese Tang, Song and Yuan Paintings from America," November 3, 2012–January 3, 2013.