Famous Women, Poems by Cao Zhenxiu (Chinese, 1762–ca. 1822), Album of sixteen painted leaves with facing inscriptions; ink on paper, China

清 改琦,曹貞秀 列女圖 冊
Famous Women

Artist:
Poems by Cao Zhenxiu (Chinese, 1762–ca. 1822)
Artist:
Paintings by Gai Qi (Chinese, 1773–1828)
Period:
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Date:
1799
Culture:
China
Medium:
Album of sixteen painted leaves with facing inscriptions; ink on paper
Dimensions:
Each leaf: 9 3/4 × 6 5/8 in. (24.8 × 16.8 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Bequests of Edna H. Sachs and Flora E. Whiting, by exchange; Fletcher Fund, by exchange; Gifts of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham and Mrs. Henry J. Bernheim, by exchange; and funds from various donors, by exchange, 2016
Accession Number:
2016.362a–t
Not on view
In 1799, the famous literary couple Wang Qisun and Cao Zhenxiu invited the leading figure painter Gai Qi to illustrate a series of verses they had written about famous people both historical and legendary. The husband Wang’s poems and the accompanying images are now lost, but his wife Cao’s poems and Gai’s illustrations remain in this album, which offers powerful testimony to the vibrant relationship between poetry and painting in the literary circles of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century China. Gai brings a playful sensitivity to bear, using gossamer-fine brushwork and sensitive pacing to imbue each composition with a sense of drama and originality. Some of Cao’s selections reveal a clear sense of pride in the accomplishments of female scholars of the past, who, like Cao herself, had to work twice as hard to gain recognition in a male-dominated literati culture.
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signatures

Leaf A-P:
16 paintings by Gai Qi with no artist’s inscription or signature

Leaf AA-PP:
16 inscriptions by Cao Zhenxiu, each in 4 columns in standard script except Leaf PP


Leaf AA

麻姑賣酒
蓬萊按部記栽桑,撒米空中鳥爪長。狡獪漸除成一姥,祇堪賣酒向餘杭。
墨琴

Leaf BB

紅拂梳頭
眼底英䧺一拂中,曉妝逆旅話髯公。絳仙此際朝酲懶,猶未梳頭大業宮。
墨琴

Leaf CC

彩鸞寫韻
寫韻辛勤已十年,龍鱗裝褙到公權。于今跨虎歸山去,別作雙雙世外仙。
墨琴

Leaf DD

王母瑤池
層城十二宴吹笙,黃竹歌成駿足輕。何不小留依阿母,碧桃花下問長生。
貞秀

Leaf EE

宣文授經
漆簡雲書議曲臺,絳紗敕向後堂開。禮家馬鄭尊師說,卻自裠釵授受來。
墨琴女史

Leaf FF

昭容枰詩
應奉文章說景龍,夜珠明月較量工。太平公主刊遺集,拜倒朝端燕國公。
貞秀

Leaf GG

孟光提甕
井臼勞勞一飯艱,未能偕隱買青山。何時結屋皋橋住,送老蘆簾帋閤閒。
貞秀

Leaf HH

織女渡河
銀漢無橋待鵲填,湔車惆悵過年年。七襄枉自堆雲錦,難與牽牛抵聘錢。
墨琴女史題。

Leaf II

玉真入道
丹竈砂牀近畫屏,欲隨南嶽鍊真形。雷符雲篆柔豪下,自寫靈飛六甲經。
墨琴女史

Leaf JJ

羅敷採桑
五馬生光照路衢,提筺南陌傍城隅。便無千騎東方擁,也道羅敷自有夫。
墨琴

Leaf KK

二喬觀書
銅雀春深罷浴蠶,繡墩雙坐共開函。陰符只合郎君讀,更向花前讀二南。
墨琴女史

Leaf LL

班昭修史
蘭臺餘業詔重修,東觀藏書許細紬。金匱文高看史筆,未甘詞賦壓羣流。
貞秀

Leaf MM

天女散花
維摩榻畔會龍華,未見繽紛上戒裟。並蒂同心皆世幻,散花須散曼殊花。
墨琴女史

Leaf NN

衛鑠臨池
筆陣森嚴磔與波,簪花有帖幾傳訛。鍾王虞褚尋書派,咄咄人閒數阿婆。
貞秀

Leaf OO

仲姬內宴
興慶朝回響珮琚,一家風雅揔能書。千文准敕教裝玉,也抵金蓮送直廬。
貞秀

Leaf PP (5 columns in standard script, dated 1799)

石砫請纓
帳外刀光擁節旄,洗夫人後幾英豪。桃花馬上歸來晚,香汗如珠濕戰袍。
嘉慶四年歲在己未,長至前三日題於漚波舫。墨琴女史曹貞秀


Artist’s seals

墨琴 (Leaf AA)
寫韻軒 (Leaf AA)
貞秀 (Leaf BB)
長洲女史 (Leaf BB)
貞、秀 (Leaf CC)
寫韻軒 (Leaf CC) red
曹娥 (Leaf DD)
貞秀 (Leaf DD)
貞秀之章 (Leaf EE)
墨琴 (Leaf EE)
寫韻軒 (Leaf FF)
歸太原 (Leaf FF)
曹娥 (Leaf GG)
貞秀 (Leaf GG)
曹貞秀 (Leaf HH)
墨琴 (Leaf HH)
寫韻軒 (Leaf II)
綉奩清課 (Leaf II)
墨琴 (Leaf JJ)
紅課餘清 (Leaf JJ)
墨琴 (Leaf KK)
曹娥 (Leaf KK)
墨琴 (Leaf LL)
初學衛夫人 (Leaf LL)
墨琴 (Leaf MM)
貞秀 (Leaf MM)
初學衛夫人 (Leaf NN)
歸太原 (Leaf NN)
太原 (Leaf OO)
貞秀印 (Leaf OO)
墨琴 (Leaf PP)
真珠密字芙蓉篇 (Leaf PP)


Label strip

Wu Hufan 吳湖帆 (1894–1968), 2 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1946; 2 seals:

改七薌畫、曹墨琴題《列女圖》冊
丙戌春日吳湖帆署籤。 [印]:吳、倩盦


Colophons

1. Wang Qisun 王芑孫 (1755–1817), 9 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 2 seals (Leaf Q):

余夫婦嘗各寫題畫詩以贈屺雲,既已合裝一卷藏之古倪園矣,復屬改君七薌補作其畫,各裝一冊,而求重書之。又恐巧偷豪敚者之睨其㫄也,並求題記以專弆翫。然葛屨一輛而雙璧珍之,無廼過耶。楞伽山人書。 [印]:王芑孫、漚波

2. Liao Yunjin 廖雲錦 (active ca. 1800), 1 column in standard script, dated 1800; 1 double-seal (Leaf PP):

嘉慶五年歲在庚申正月甲子青溪女史廖氏雲錦觀。 [印]:雲、錦

3. Guo Fengliang 郭鳳梁 (active mid-19th c.), 1 column in clerical script, dated 1842; 1 seal (Leaf R):

道光辛丑子月廿三日吳門郭鳳梁季乕甫敬觀于洞庭東麓。 [印]:鳳梁眼福
Roy and Marilyn Papp (until 2016; estate sale at Sotheby’s New York, September 14, 2016, lot 595, to MMA)
Phoenix Art Museum. "Journeys on Paper and Silk: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting," February 28, 1998–April 19, 1998.

Nashville. Frist Center for the Visual Arts. "Lyrical Traditions: Four Centuries of Chinese Paintings from the Papp Collection," June 22, 2007–October 7, 2007.

Phoenix Art Museum. "Hidden Meanings of Love and Death: Selections from the Marilyn and Roy Papp Collection," April 27, 2013–September 2, 2013.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.