Unidentified artist (late 15th16th century)
Hanging scroll, ink on silk; 49 3/4 x 29 1/8 in. (126.4 x 48.5 cm)
Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, John M. Crawford Jr. Bequest, and The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 1992 (1992.337)
Monochrome landscape painting was favored by both literati and professional court painters in Korea in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This painting is an example of Korean artists' interpretation of the landscape painting idiom of China's Northern Song dynasty (9601127).
The title identifies the work as one of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, a poetic theme traditionally associated with the Northern Song painter Song Di (ca. 1015ca. 1080) that became a favorite subject for painters not only in China but, from the twelfth century onward, in Korea and Japan. The distant mountains, the low hills accented by trees, and the flat riverbankslandscape elements that the artist has carefully organized into distinct ground planescreate a peaceful and expansive vista. The geese descending to a broad sandbank at the foot of the mountains in the distance and the returning fishing boat in the foreground, seen through a misty haze, suggest an evening scene. Each of these elements is sensitively rendered in differentiated tones of ink and pale ink washes.
This painting takes as its inspiration a poem, inscribed in Chinese characters in the upper right corner after the four-character title:
On the frozen frontier is a hail of arrows,
Along the Golden River [Jinhe] there are no rice fields.
Brothers one and all, flying down in skeins,
After ten thousand li, they arrive at Xiao and Xiang.
The distant waters shine like reels of silk,
The level sands are white as glinting frost.
At the ferry quay, no one is about,
Close to the setting sun, the geese descend ever more gracefully.
(Translation by Roderick Whitfield)
The poem is written in irregular verse, a form popular during the Song dynasty (9601279). The first two lines refer to a hunt in the cold, bleak steppe along China's northern frontier from which the wild geese migrate south, a reference to the conquest of the Song by the Mongols and their subsequent rule of China under the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).