Image: 9 1/2 x 171 1/2 in. (24.1 x 435.6 cm) Overall with mounting: 9 3/4 x 491 3/8 in. (24.8 x 1248.1 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1980
Not on view
In 353, the renowned calligrapher Wang Xizhi (307–365) and his friends met at the Orchid Pavilion (at Shanyin, in modern Zhejiang Province) to celebrate the spring festival of purification. Sitting by a stream, they held a poetry competition. When the time was up, eleven men had finished two poems, and fifteen had finished one; the sixteen who failed to come up with anything (among them, Wang’s son Xianzhi) were penalized by having to drink three additional cups of wine. In Qian Gu’s representation of this famous literary event, cups of wine float downstream as the poets, lined up on both sides, drink freely and struggle to complete their poems.
Orphaned at an early age, Qian Gu did not receive a formal education until adulthood, when he became a pupil of Wen Zhengming (1470–1559). This painting is modeled after a composition said to have been originated by Li Gonglin (ca. 1049–1106).
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signature (195 columns in standard script, dated 1560; mounted after the painting)