Image: 60 3/4 x 18 5/16 in. (154.3 x 46.5 cm)
Overall with mounting: 86 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (220.3 x 65.4 cm)
Overall with knobs: 86 3/4 x 29 1/2 in. (220.3 x 74.9 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, The Dillon Fund Gift and Anonymous Gift, 1993
Not on view
Zhang Feng's father, a military governor, died in 1631 while defending the Ming dynasty against Manchu incursions. After the fall of the Ming in 1644, Zhang withdrew from society and entered the Buddhist church. This painting, one of Zhang's last dated works, epitomizes the bold, free brush manner of his maturity. It shows a lone scholar in a wintry landscape. Clutching a staff with hands drawn into his sleeves to protect them from the cold, he stands erect and motionless beside a stone bridge. The imagery recalls the natural stone arch at Mount Tiantai, a site sacred to Buddhists. Legend has it that anyone who succeeds in crossing the slippery arch will enter paradise and become an immortal. Zhang's autobiographical figure can neither attain paradise nor return whence he came; he is riveted to the harsh reality of the present, where he must face both his limitations and his mortality.
Zhang's inscription reinforces the tension between the figure and his world:
Who is it gripping an iron staff in the jade spray The torrent's waters ringing beneath the stone bridge? Snow, like flowers' souls, flies about without pause; The spring wind still awaits the mountain man's summons.
From the poem it becomes clear that spring's renewal is not forthcoming—the scholar—recluse in the painting is no more able to summon the spring wind than Zhang is capable of restoring the fallen Ming.
Signature: Signed on the painting by Zhang Feng (upper right corner):
"Who is it gripping an iron staff in the jade spray The torrent's waters ringing beneath the stone bridge? Snow, like flowers' souls, flies about without pause; The spring wind still awaits the mountain man's summons." Poem and painting are respectfully presented to Master Shih-an.
After becoming drunk, I feel my brush and ink have some spirit. It's this fine paper and being with an old friend at year's end. This is indeed an occasion for great happiness. Done on the 15th day of the 12th month of the gengzi year [January 15, 1661] by your fellow townsman and "younger brother" Zhang Feng of Shangyüan [Nanking].
The inscription is followed by two artist's seals: Zhang Feng Zhang Dafeng
Marking: Six collectors' seals have been impressed on the painting and mounting: Shi shi zhencang Li qing fu jünyi wu Kuai shou qü jia zhencang Mian zhi sanshiwu hou so cang Shengyüan tang Shi Zengcang Wang Jiqian chu
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Text and Image: The Interaction of Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy," January 23, 1999–August 16, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the C.C.Wang Family Collection," September 2, 1999–January 9, 2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Scholars' Rocks: Gardens, Studios, and Paintings," February 1, 2000–August 20, 2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)," February 2, 2002–August 18, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dreams of Yellow Mountain: Landscapes of Survival in Seventeenth-Century China," September 13, 2003–February 22, 2004.