Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1987
Not on view
Following the fall of Beijing to the bandit-rebel Li Zicheng in April 1644, Nanjing suffered a chaotic year of warfare between a Ming loyalist regime and the attacking Manchu forces. This album was painted in August 1644 as the Ming dynasty was crumbling.
In creating these idyllic images of the world of the recluse, Zhang Feng turned to the pale dry style of Ni Zan (1306–1374), but the gossamer lightness of Zhang's touch adds a new lyrical charm to Ni's style. Keenly interested in language, Zhang explores the expressive interplay of visual and poetic imagery in fresh and insightful ways: one leaf describes the murmur of pines and the sound of water running over rocks; another evokes the echoes of a stone tossed into a deserted valley; a third features a sunset, a subject rarely depicted by scholar-artists but one that may have held deep symbolic meaning for Zhang. He remained loyal to the Ming dynasty after the Manchu conquest and, refusing to take an official position under the new regime, ended his life in poverty.
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signatures
Leaf A (4 columns in standard script)
This looks somewhat like the entrance to the “Peach Blossom Spring,” but it isn't. Dafeng
Leaf B (1 column in standard script) Imitating Ni [Ni Zan, 1306–1374]
Leaf C (6 columns in standard script, dated 1644) “The worldly red dusts do not rise at my front door. Green trees stand just right to conceal the corners of my house, Blue mountains nicely fill in the breach atop my garden wall.” These lines are musical lyrics by a Yuan dynasty master [i.e. Ma Zhiyuan, ca. 1260–1324]. It seems that I should use the water-and-tree method to paint this well, yet the result is clumsy everywhere – an embarrassing embodiment of Zhang Juqu’s [Zhang Yu, 1283–1350] phrase “beating the side of a drum.” On the evening of the seventh day of the seventh month of the jiashen year [August 8, 1644].
Leaf D (1 column in standard script) Chiming from the cloud, sails in the wind.
Leaf E (5 columns in standard script):
The painting does not have a prescribed title. Once there is a title, the place changes. [The subject] seems to be listening to the rushing mountain brook. It is fine if you think [the title is] “Bright moon shines through the pines; clear spring flows across the rocks.” [a couplet from a poem by Wang Wei, 701–761] Mr. Beijin must be thinking that I paint with the method of composing examination papers. Have a laugh! On the last day of the sixth month [August 1].
It pains me to be unable to [make my painting] light (dan) to that extent. Though trying my best to emulate it, in the end my brushwork remains cumbersome. On the tenth day of the seventh month [August 11], while raining. Dafeng
Leaf K (1 Column in standard script):
Sunset over the mountains.
Leaf L (9 columns in standard script): Mr. Beijin presented this album to me for paintings. It happened that I just read Yuan Zhonglang’s [Yuan Hongdao, 1568–1610] collected writings, and liked his couplet: “Someone emerges out of a cave at the bottom of a waterfall; the sound of tossed pebbles in the mountain is heard in the village nearby.” I therefore made a painting of it, suspecting that I vaguely captured eighty or ninety percent of his idea. Your junior Zhang Feng casually inscribed this in the Fledging Crow Studio [Ruya Xuan].
The Dafeng Tang Studio respectfully preserves the twelve-leaf album by Shangyuan Laoren [Zhang Feng]. An unrivaled masterpiece of the divine class, the one and only in the world. Yuan, Dhūta [Sanskrit for mendicant monk]. [seals]: Wushen, Zhang Yuan siyin, Daqian, Bade Yuan
1. An Zhiyuan 安致遠 (active ca. 1645–84), 9 columns in standard script; 1 seal [Leaf M]:
In the spring of yiwei year , I went to Yanjing [Beijing]. Lodging at Danqiao one night, I held a lamp to read the poems on the walls. Among them was a ci-verse composed in the tune of pusaman written in monumental characters that evoked the brushwork of drunken [Zhang] Xu (active 713–740) and crazy [Mi] Fu (1052–1107). I then composed one in the same rhyme scheme in response. Now ten years have flown by. Although the poet’s name was inscribed on the wall, living in a remote coastal region, I have had no idea who Dafeng was. Today in the official the residence of Old Master Li [Zhou Lianggong] I finally learned about Dafeng’s life and was shown his paintings. The vital spirit of ripe old age powerfully animates the picture surfaces, as if the beards and brows of [the loyalist general] Zhang Gao (died 764) were emerging from the foot-wide space of the paintings. Inscribed by An Zhiyuan, a junior in learning. [Seal]: Jingzi
2. You Yin 尤蔭 (1732–1812), 10 columns in standard/semi-cursive script, dated 1781; 1 seal [Leaf M]:
Zhang Dafeng of Shangyuan [Nanjing] was a painter at the start of the dynasty. His brushwork in painting has (the quality of) placid detachment, and is obstemous in use of ink. They are truly outstanding. Long ago, when I was a student in Baixia [Nanjing], I often visited the Chu Garden and the Sui Garden, where I would ask collectors to show me a few things. Having seeing so many paintings pass before my eyes. I cannot forget the feelings I had with them. But [brushwork of] this album is so delicate like cocoon silk and cow’s hair, firm as a muscles in bones. It is as light as an autumn cloud and as tranquil as still water. It attains an even higher level [than the paintings I had seen previously]. It makes you feel excited in awe of the master’s magically creative hand. The form of its achievement is beyond any language. On the 20th day of the fifth month of the year xinchou in the Qianlong era [June 11, 1781] when it was my 50th birthday. A few days ago, I borrowed it from my wife’s uncle Litang and returned home to my Shiyao Mountain Studio. Carefully I studied it through for ten days and night. I considered those days as time not wasted. On the 27th day [June 18] when the rain had just stopped, with a nice breeze and clear summer weather, I turned my boat upriver to return (the album) to the Dongxiang Caotang [Dongxiang Thatched Cottage]. It was like traveling in the painting. My wife’s uncle should dearly treasure it. Inscribed by You Yin, Shuicun Qiaoren [Woodcutter of the Water Village]. [Seal]: Gongfu