Mending clothes by daylight

Unidentified artist

Not on view

Chan doctrine teaches that all images are illusory, and paintings such as this one, in which ink is applied so lightly that the picture seems to flicker and fade before the viewer’s eyes, are among the most eloquent artistic manifestations of that belief. Using dilute ink for most of the picture, the artist has reserved dark tones for the eyes of the main figure and the needle in his hand, imparting special emphasis to these key elements. The painting is inscribed by the prominent Chan abbot Chijue Daochong. His poem reads:

Mending rips and tears—robe mostly tattered,
It’s like chasing clouds—where to begin?
The needle glints in the rays of the setting sun,
Yet one must still squint.

Mending clothes by daylight, Unidentified artist (Chinese, 13th century), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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