Image: 41 15/16 x 9 3/4 in. (106.5 x 24.8 cm)
Overall with mounting: 75 3/4 x 14 1/8 in. (192.4 x 35.9 cm)
Overall with knobs: 75 3/4 x 15 15/16 in. (192.4 x 40.5 cm)
Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1983
Not on view
The plum, the first flower to appear in spring, is celebrated along with bamboo and pine as one of the Three Friends of Winter. Admired for its purity and hardiness, sending forth new shoots and delicate blossoms from seemingly lifeless branches, the plum became a symbol of survival, rejuvenation, and longevity. Here, the tight clusters of pale blossoms and buds indicate that the plum has just begun to flower.
In this work by the otherwise unknown Chinese Buddhist monk Ni Jing, both composition and brushwork derive from the renowned Yuan-dynasty plum painter Wang Mian (d. 1359). The artist has calligraphed a poetic inscription in a highly animated cursive script, in places letting the brush go almost dry before reinking. The poem reads:
Blossoms rival the moon in brightness, Hundreds of them overlapping like fragrant snowflakes. Since men of the world vie by preening in fine colors, Do not scoop up water to wash away badges of pink.
Written by Nanzhuang Chusou [Ni Jing]
—Trans. John T. Carpenter
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in cursive script):
Blossoms compete with the moon in luminosity; All merge in white, making me suspect that snow has fragrance. Worldly men, ardently praising the loveliness of colors, Would not have scooped water to rinse off pink makeup. Written by Nanzhuang Chusou [Ni Jing].
克誠 止齋 倪敬克誠 帶經之裔 南莊鉏叟 筆底□春
 Translation by Shi-yee Liu.
[ Yukinori Yokota , Tokyo, until 1983; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Traditional Scholarly Values at the End of the Qing Dynasty: The Collection of Weng Tonghe (1830–1904)," June 30, 1998–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Millennium of Chinese Painting: Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," September 8, 2001–January 13, 2002.
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. "The Four Seasons," January 28, 2006–August 13, 2006.
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. "The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change," August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats," August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013.