This painting, with its extravagant depiction of the rigors of traveling in the mountains in winter, would have appealed to the merchants from the northern province of Shanxi. Inspired by fantastic garden rockeries rather than an actual landscape, Yuan Yao’s fanciful composition juxtaposes a twisting vertical mountainscape with a level vista where a playful zigzag bridge bisects the view. A distant range of precipitous peaks is straddled by a bridge ornamented with a pavilion—a typical garden conceit in the level terrain of south China—that is incongruously suspended over a deep chasm. In the foreground, a bustling country inn promises a welcome rest stop for travelers.
Yuan first laid out this monochrome masterpiece with pale outlines then added broader, boldly brushed contours in varying ink tones that both model forms and enliven them with graphic energy. The result is a dynamic composition that appears to have been executed with great spontaneity—belying the care with which each motif was planned and rendered. Yuan’s craftsmanship is most apparent in his handling of ink washes that leave the snow-covered surfaces in reserve.
Inscription: Artist's inscription and signature (2 columns in semi-cursive script)
Hostelry and Travelers in Snowy Mountains. It is spring of the yichou year . Painted by Yuan Yao from the Han River [Yangzhou].
Yuan Yao 袁耀 Zhaodao 昭道
Unidentified artist (outside of mounting):
袁耀 《雪棧行旅圖》 無上神品
Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1907–2003) Wang Jiqian shi shending zhenji 王季遷氏審定真迹
Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Wang , New York (until 2003; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dreams of Yellow Mountain: Landscapes of Survival in Seventeenth-Century China," September 13, 2003–February 22, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12, 2004–August 8, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art," February 10, 2007–August 26, 2007.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.