Landscapes, Gong Xian (Chinese, 1619–1689), Album of six paintings; ink on paper, China

清 倣龔賢 山水圖 冊

Gong Xian (Chinese, 1619–1689)
Inscribed by Gong Xian (Chinese, 1619–1689)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
datable 1682–88
Album of six paintings; ink on paper
Each: 8 3/4 x 17 3/8 in. (22.2 x 44.1 cm)
Credit Line:
The Sackler Fund, 1969
Accession Number:
Not on view
Gong Xian fled Nanjing when the city fell to the Manchus in 1645, and during this chaotic period, several members of his family perished. "Preserved through reclusion and purified in retirement," Gong came to terms with himself as an yimin, "leftover subject," under the new Qing dynasty.

The loose treatment of landscape elements in this album, as defined by bold contour lines and repetitive clusters of dots, is indicative of its late date, probably around 1688. The contrast between pale ink washes and dark dots that enabled Gong to achieve both incredible density and translucency in his paintings is echoed by the contrasting dark and pale passages in his poetic inscriptions, which reflect the artist's spontaneous reinking of his brush.

Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signature

Leaf A (5 columns in semi-cursive script):

My home is at Yellow-Leaves Village in Jiangnan. This is a poetic subject. Can’t one express it with a brush?


Leaf B (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

I once asked a mountain dweller
If there are more clouds where there are more mountains.
The mountain dweller replied,
How about abiding by the white clouds.


Leaf C [No Inscription]

Leaf D (5 columns in semi-cursive script):

A layer of bright moonlight shimmers across the autumn river.
A pair of silver carp jumps out and looks around.
Inebriated, an old fisherman sings a song;
Charming performers of a professional troupe troll out of tune.


Leaf E (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

A corridor circles the mountain’s foot,
Extending around the mountain for five li [nearly two miles],
One returns with the bright moon,
One goes forth with the setting sun.


Leaf F (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

After the fisherman returns home,
The empty boat is left in the bright moonlight [1].
Gong Xian


Artist’s seals

Gong Xian yin 龔賢印 (leaf A, C, D, E, F)
Banqian 半千 (leaves B, F)

Collector’s seals

Hu Xiaozhuo 胡小琢 (19th c.)
Hu Xiaozhuo cang 胡小琢藏 (leaves A, B, C, F)
Deyi Xuan cang 得一軒藏 (leaf F)

[1] Translations from Department records
Richard B. Hobart , Cambridge, MA (by 1959 until d. 1963, posthumous sale at Parke-Bernet, the Richard Bryant Hobart collection of Chinese ceramics & paintings, part 2, December 12, 1969, lot 273, New York, to MMA)
Princeton University. "Studies in Connoisseurship: Chinese Painting from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection in NY and Princeton," December 8, 1973–February 3, 1974.

Cleveland Museum of Art. "Studies in Connoisseurship: Chinese Painting from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection in NY and Princeton," July 10, 1974–September 2, 1974.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Studies in Connoisseurship: Chinese Painting from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection in NY and Princeton," September 15, 1974–November 3, 1974.

University of Edinburgh, Scotland. "Edinburgh Festival," August 1, 1984–September 15, 1984.

Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum. "Chinese Paintings from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection," April 15, 1986–June 29, 1986.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Millennium of Chinese Painting: Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," September 8, 2001–January 13, 2002.