Attributed to Lü Jingfu (Chinese, active late 14th century)
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
40 x 20 7/8 in. (101.6 x 53 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1912
Not on view
This decorative work of the Piling school of flower painting compares closely to signed works by the late-fourteenth-century painter Lü Jingfu. Originally one of a matching pair of panels, the painting shows butterflies and a praying mantis flying amid a late-spring bouquet of poppies, asters, Chinese pinks, and chrysanthemums; a salamander in the center foreground is flanked by an orchid on the left and a cabbage on the right. The flowers and insects are flawlessly executed in fine precise brushwork and colored in delicate hues of pink, white, green, and purple, with malachite green and powder-white highlights.
Similar motifs are found on blue-and-white ceramics and other decorative arts of the period where floral elements appear with frogs, salamanders, praying mantises, and cicadas. The salamander, when shown with a praying mantis devouring a cicada, symbolizes cyclical predation in nature and echoes a famous passage from the Zhuangzi: "Creatures are so enmeshed in nature, one species always preying on another." The popularity of such motifs in fourteenth-century art seems to reflect the political climate of the time, when China, ruled by the Mongols, was beset by repression and injustice.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature, or seal