Art/ Collection/ Art Object

元 王冕 墨梅圖 軸
Fragrant Snow at Broken Bridge

Wang Mian (Chinese, 1287–1359)
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
Image: 44 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (113 x 50.2 cm) Overall with colophons: 68 x 19 3/4 in. (172.7 x 50.2 cm) Overall with mounting: 106 1/8 x 25 1/4 in. (269.6 x 64.1 cm) Overall with knobs: 106 1/8 x 29 1/2 in. (269.6 x 74.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1973
Accession Number:
Not on view
An ambitious scholar, Wang Mian was determined to fulfill his responsibilities as a man of talent despite the frustrations and dangers of life under Mongol rule. He studied philosophy, military tactics and politics. He wrote poems and government treatises, drew up battle plans and painted unforgettable images of the flowering plum that became the principal model for plum painters of Ming and Qing times.

In this painting, Wang Main brought into balance the expressive and representational elements of his subject, for in depicting silken blossoms and rough branches, he employed both the delicately descriptive techniques of his academic predecessors and the bold calligraphic brushwork of his literati contemporaries.

The flowering plum (Prunus mume, or Japanese apricot) became an object of intense enthusiasm during the Southern Song dynasty and has remained one of China's favorite motifs. Blooming before all other trees, it was welcomed as the harbinger of spring. By Wang Mian's time, under the impact of the barbarian Mongol rule, the image of the flowering plum blossoming in the withered winter landscape, had become a powerful symbol of purity and endurance in adversity.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in semi-cursive script)

A wintry plum tree with branches like white jade,
A warm breeze scatters the flowers with snowflakes.
The Hermit of the Lonely Hill [Lin Bu, 967–1028] has remained true to himself;
Now who carries the sound of reedpipe music across the broken bridge?[1]
Yuanzhang [Wang Mian]


Artist's seals
Zhu Zhai tushu 竹齋圖書
Kuaiji jia shanshui 會稽佳山水
Fangwai Sima 方外司馬

Label strip

Shen Jin’an 沈覲安 (1901–1975), 1 column in semi-cursive script, undated:

Fragrant Snow at Broken Bridge by Wang Yuanzhang [Wang Mian]. Inscribed by Shen Jianzhi [Shen Jin’an].



1. Gu Dadian 顧大典 (jinshi 1568), 9 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1568; 2 seals:

The plum paintings by the Stone-cooking Mountain Peasant [Wang Mian] are in no way inferior to those by Yang Wujiu [Yang Buzhi, 1097–1169]. His brushwork is free with an ancient flair, powerful yet eccentric, which was unique of his time. One can envision his lofty spirit and wild manners while wielding a wooden sword in a tall, brimmed hat and a pair of thick-soled wooden clogs. Unfortunately he was not prolific; very few of his works have survived. I have only seen a long handscroll by him at the Lanyun Ge Studio. In the fifth lunar month of the second year of the Longqing reign era [1568], Daoxing [Gu Dadian]. [Seals]: Dadian, Hengyu

煮石山農畫梅不減楊無咎,筆法古逸,渾雄奇崛,獨冠一峕,可想見其著高簷帽、履長齒木屐、擊木劍之高風狂態也。惜不多作,流傳極少,余僅於攬雲閣見一長卷而已。隆慶二年五月道行 [印]: 大典、衡寓

2. Zhang Fengshi 張逢時 (1917–1990), 7 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1966; 1 seal:

The Stone-cooking Mountain Peasant had an unusual spirit. His plum paintings are therefore dark and subdued with archaic ruggedness. This scroll has an extra flair of nonchalant elegance. It has achieved the full range of what one can do with plum painting. May Mr. Yong treasure it in his collection. Inscribed by Zhang Fengshi on an autumn day in the bingwu year (1966). [Seal]: Zhang Fengshi yin

煮石山農胸有奇氣,故畫梅沈鬱古峭,觀此幀而別具灑落之致,畫梅之能事畢矣。顒翁其寶藏之。丙午秋日張逢時題 。 [印]:張逢時印

Collectors' seals

Qing emperor Qianlong 清帝乾隆 (r. 1736–1795)
Qianlong jianshang 乾隆鑑賞

Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C.C. Wang, 1907–2003)
Wang shi Jiqian zhencang zhi yin 王氏季遷珍藏之印

Gongyi Zhai shuhua zhang 恭毅齋書畫章
Shiwang Fang Zhushan cang 石望方柱山藏

[1] Translation from Wen C. Fong, Sung and Yuan Paintings, with catalogue by Marilyn Fu. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973, p. 132.
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