Art/ Collection/ Art Object

南宋 佚名 “三元得祿”圖扇頁
Gibbons Raiding an Egret's Nest

Unidentified Artist Chinese
Formerly Attributed to Yi Yuanji (Chinese, died 1066)
Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)
late 12th century
Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on silk
Image: 9 1/2 in. × 9 in. (24.1 × 22.9 cm)
Credit Line:
John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913
Accession Number:
Not on view
Taken literally, this painting is a dramatic vignette from nature, in which three gibbons raid an egret’s nest, capturing young birds as their mother circles above in anguish. Symbolically, the animals comprise a rebus, a visual pun in which a phrase is spelled out using pictures. In Chinese, the phrase “three gibbons capture egrets” (san yuan de lu) may also be read as “a triple first gains power,” a wish for success in the three levels of the imperial examinations. Originally mounted as a fan, this exquisite painting would have been the perfect gift for an aspiring scholar preparing for the exams.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature, or seal

Label strip

Unidentified, 1 column in standard script, undated:

Yi Yuanji of the Northen Song dynasty.
John C. Ferguson , until 1913; sold to MMA]
New York. China Institute in America. "Album Leaves from the Song and Yuan Dynasties," March 26, 1970–May 30, 1970.

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. "Monkey Business: Celebrating the Year of the Monkey," January 8, 2016–July 24, 2016.

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