This handscroll is one of two similar compositions attributed to Xie Huan that document a gathering of nine scholar-officials in Beijing on April 6, 1437. The original composition, prepared for the party's host, Yang Rong (1371–1440), who is depicted wearing a red robe in the first group of seated figures, is now in the Zhenjiang Municipal Museum. This painting, probably made for the senior guest, Yang Shiqi (1365–1444), who is seated in a blue robe next to Yang Rong, is a condensed version executed by one of Xie Huan's associates. In spite of the apparent informality of the subject, the painting is carefully crafted to emphasize the power, prestige, and cultivation of the officials. The men's substantial robes and formal poses underscore the dignity of their positions, and their political ranks are distinguished by their placement in the composition. Those of the greatest status, Yang Shiqi and Yang Rong, are at the center of the composition; guests of lower rank are closer to the periphery of the scroll. The antiques and scholarly paraphernalia surrounding the men suggest their literary accomplishments and aesthetic discernment.
Following the painting are poems composed by the participants to commemorate the gathering, beginning with a preface inscribed in a dignified clerical script by Yang Shiqi, the oldest participant and the highest-ranking government official of his day. The Qing official and later owner of the scroll Weng Tonghe (1830–1904) inscribed the mounting in front of the painting with a listing of the nine officials.
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明 傳謝環 杏園雅集圖 卷
Title:Elegant Gathering in the Apricot Garden
Artist:After Xie Huan (Chinese, 1377–1452)
Period:Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Medium:Handscroll; ink and color on silk
Dimensions:Image: 14 5/8 x 95 3/4 in. (37.1 x 243.2 cm) Overall with mounting: 14 3/4 in. x 41 ft. 11 1/4 in. (37.5 x 1278.3 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1989
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature or seal
Unidentified Artist, 1 column in standard script, undated:
1. Weng Tonghe 翁同龢 (1830–1904), 13 columns in standard script, undated (on brocade border preceding the painting):
Identities of the figures [in the scroll] from the beginning to the end, listed in the sequence as recorded in the essay. The painter Xie Tingxun (Xie Huan) is not in the painting.
Three strollers who arrived late: Academician Chen Xun (1385–1462), Academician Li Shimian (1374–1450), Left Secretariat of the Heir Apparent Zhou Shu (died 1436). Three seated in front of the rock screen: Vice Supervisor of the Household of the Heir Apparent Wang Zhi (1379–1462), Junior Mentor Yang Shiqi (1365–1444), Grand Academician Yang Rong (1371–1440). Three seated next to the apricot blossoms: Vice Supervisor of the Household of the Heir Apparent Wang Ying (1376–1450), Minister of Rites Yang Pu (1372–1446), Academician Qian Xili (1373–1461).
[ Wan-go H. C. Weng , Lyme, NH, , until 1989; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Imperial Painting of the Ming Dynasty: The Zhe School," March 10–May 9, 1993.
Dallas Museum of Art. "Imperial Painting of the Ming Dynasty: The Zhe School," June 6–August 1, 1993.
Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.
Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Resonant Image: Tradition in Japanese Art (Part One)," 1997–98.
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–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the C.C.Wang Family Collection," September 2, 1999–January 9, 2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Scholars' Rocks: Gardens, Studios, and Paintings," February 1–August 20, 2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan I," March 1–September 21, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12–August 8, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of the Brush: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy," March 12–August 14, 2005.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Four Seasons," January 28–August 13, 2006.
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–September 13, 2009.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats," August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013.
London. British Museum. "Ming: 50 Years that Changed China," September 18, 2014–January 5, 2015.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from The Met Collection (Rotation One)," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting," October 29, 2016–August 6, 2017.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Up Close," January 25, 2020–June 27, 2021.
Smith, Bradley, and Wan-go Weng. China: A History in Art. New York: Harper & Row, [1972?], pp. 212–13.
Cahill, James. The Compelling Image: Nature and Style in Seventeenth-Century Chinese painting. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982, p. 118, pl. 4.15.
Suzuki Kei 鈴木敬, ed. Chûgoku kaiga sogo zuroku: Daiikan, Amerika-Kanada Hen 中國繪畫總合圖錄: 第一卷 アメリカ - カナダ 編 (Comprehensive illustrated catalog of Chinese paintings: vol. 1 American and Canadian collections) Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1982, pp. 88–89, cat. no. A13-052.
Gao Juhan (James Cahill) 高居翰. Jiang'an songbie: Ming dai chuqi yu zhongqi huihua 江岸送別： 明代初期與中期繪畫 (Parting at the shore:Chinese painting of the early and middle Ming dynasty, 1368–1580. Translated by Wang Jingfei 王靜霏. Taipei: Shitou chuban gongsi, 1997, pp. 30–31.
Watt, James C. Y., and Denise Patry Leidy. Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005, pp. 10–11, fig. 1.
Quette, Beatrice, ed. Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. Exh. cat. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2011, p. 138, fig. 7.15.
Clunas, Craig, and Jessica Harrison-Hall, eds. Ming: 50 Years that Changed China. Exh. cat. London: British Museum Press, 2014, pp. 190–91, fig. 164.
Flacks, Marcus. Custodians of the Scholar's Way: Chinese Scholars' Objects in Precious Woods. London: Sylph Editions, 2014, pp. 48–50.
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