late Yuan (1271–1368)–early Ming (1368–1644) dynasty
Handscroll; ink on gold-flecked paper
Image: 10 1/2 x 27 1/4 in. (26.7 x 69.2 cm)
Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Not on view
A lover of martial arts as well as an accomplished poet, Song Ke briefly pursued a military career before returning to his native Suzhou, where he lived in retirement from about 1356 until the first Ming emperor (r. 1368–98) summoned him to serve as calligrapher-in-waiting at court. The foremost calligrapher of the early Ming, Song Ke based both his cursive and his regular scripts on those of Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322). This scroll probably dates to near the end of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). It is executed in sharp, incisive thrusts and powerful curves that evoke Song's martial spirit, and its mixture of cursive and draft-cursive styles recalls the writing of two of Zhao Mengfu's early followers: Kangli Naonao (1295–1345) and Rao Jie (ca. 1300–1367).