Image: 63 1/4 x 38 3/4 in. (160.7 x 98.4 cm)
Overall with mounting: 9 ft. 6 5/8 in. × 46 3/8 in. (291.1 × 117.8 cm)
Overall with knobs: 9 ft. 6 5/8 in. × 50 1/2 in. (291.1 × 128.3 cm)
Purchase, Oscar L. Tang Family and The Vincent Astor Foundation Gifts, 1998
Not on view
A jaunty bird peddler is surrounded by six young boys who admire their recent acquisitions or greedily eye other temptations. In addition to various species of birds, his portable display also features a rich assortment of intricate cages, gilt perches, ceramic dishes, lacquer jars, and other paraphernalia required to care for the birds, crickets, and two white rabbits offered for sale.
The subject of peddlers first became popular during the Southern Song dynasty (1127–79), when paintings typically showed a rustic knickknack merchant offering his wares to a group of country urchins. During the conscious revival of Song academic styles sponsored by the Ming court, this subject was transformed from a genre image of daily life to an elegant fantasy set within the grounds of an aristocratic household. Here, an elegantly dressed servant, acting the role of peddler, offers a specialized selection of expensive wares to the pampered male children of the family. Such idealized images functioned not merely as entertaining decoration but also as auspicious emblems of a well-governed empire enjoying the rewards of peace and prosperity.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature or seal
Wanyan Jing 完顏璟 (1168–1208) 羣玉中秘 (spurious)
[ Kaikodo LLC , New York, until 1998; sold to MMA]
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. "Cultivated Landscapes: Reflections of Nature in Chinese Painting with Selections from the Collection of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill," September 10, 2002–February 9, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of the Brush: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy," March 12, 2005–August 14, 2005.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bridging East and West: The Chinese Diaspora and Lin Yutang," September 15, 2007–February 10, 2008.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of the Ming Dynasty: China's Age of Brilliance," January 23, 2009–September 13, 2009.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats," August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection I," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.