Orchid and rock

Attributed to Ma Shouzhen Chinese

Not on view

In sixteenth-century China, courtesans played an active role in elite society. Extensive literary education was relatively rare among women, and even those fortunate enough to receive it almost never had the chance to display their gifts in public. Courtesans, by contrast, were celebrated for their talents in literature, painting, and music, and they participated in scholarly gatherings. Ma Shouzhen was one of the most famous of these; she mixed freely with the literary luminaries of Suzhou and Nanjing and carried on a long-term romance with the poet Wang Zhideng. Because of her fame, Ma’s paintings were much copied; this is likely one such homage, made in the generation or two after her death.

Orchid and rock, Attributed to Ma Shouzhen (Chinese, 1548–1604), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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