Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on silk
Image: 9 7/8 x 10 1/2 in. (25.1 x 26.7 cm)
Gift of John M. Crawford Jr., in honor of Alfreda Murck, 1986
Not on view
Crafted as carefully as the regulated verse of a Tang dynasty quatrain, Ma Yuan's Viewing Plum Blossoms by Moonlight is a visual poem evoking a complex sense of time, place, and mood. The browns and blacks in the trees and rocks contrast with the light grayish hues of the cliff and mountain to suggest the mist-filled, moonlit atmosphere of an early spring evening. The thatch roof of a pavilion identifies the place as a garden setting. The white-robed gentleman, framed by the dark angular forms of the landscape, perfectly counterbalances the moon in its setting of limitless space. Recalling a yin-yang cosmic diagram with its implication of positive within negative, light within dark, solid within void, the painting may be read as an emblem of man's dual nature: tied to the physical world, man's spirit is not contained by it but, like the plum, reaches upward to partake of the infinite.
Inscription: Artist's signature (2 characters in standard script)
Gu Luofu顧洛阜 (John M. Crawford, Jr., 1913–1988) Gu Luofu 顧洛阜 Hanguang Ge 漢光閣
John M. Crawford Jr. , New York, 1986; donated to MMA
London. Victoria and Albert Museum. "Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Collection of John M. Crawford, Jr.," June 17, 1965–August 1, 1965.
New York. China House Gallery. "Selections of Chinese Art from Private Collections in the Metropolitan Area," November 15, 1966–February 15, 1967.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Peach Blossom Spring," November 21, 1983–June 3, 1984.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.
New York. China Institute in America. "The Resonance of the Qin in Far Eastern Art," September 16, 1999–December 12, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Painting, Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," August 28, 2004–February 20, 2005.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bridging East and West: The Chinese Diaspora and Lin Yutang," September 15, 2007–February 10, 2008.
Shanghai Museum. "Masterpieces of Chinese Tang, Song and Yuan Paintings from America," November 3, 2012–January 3, 2013.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of the Chinese Album," September 6, 2014–March 29, 2015.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection I," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.