Fan Qi (Chinese, 1616after 1694)
Album of eight leaves; ink and color on paper; 6 x 7 7/16 in. (15.2 x 18.9 cm)
Inscribed by the artist
Bequest of John M. Crawford, Jr., 1988 (1989.363.131)
Fan Qi worked in an unusually precise and realistic style. He was also among those painters most clearly influenced by Western techniques of depicting landscape, which were imported to Nanjing through the prints, books, and paintings brought by Jesuit missionaries. In this album, Fan's interest in describing the changing seasons, times of day, and differing qualities of light and atmosphere recall the descriptive goals of Song painting. But in contrast with Song landscapes, Fan's minutely described scenery, his accurate use of foreshortening, and his interest in the coloristic effects of sunlight result in an almost documentary quality.
The album progresses from scenes of early spring with its blossoming trees to summer rice cultivation and mountain trekking; from the cloud-wreathed peaks and dwindling light of autumn to the stark scenery and snowscapes of winter. While Fan's use of a low horizon line and tints of color to describe the Yangzi River suggest European influences, the sunset hues found in one leaf may also carry a political message. Having lived through the Manchu conquest of the Ming, the reddish tints may be a nostalgic reference to the fading glories of the former dynasty, whose rulers' surname (Zhu) means "crimson" and whose dynastic name (Ming) means "brilliance."