Finches and bamboo

Artist: Emperor Huizong (Chinese, 1082–1135; r. 1100–25)

Period: Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)

Date: early 12th century

Culture: China

Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on silk

Dimensions: Image: 13 1/4 × 21 13/16 in. (33.7 × 55.4 cm)
Overall with mounting: 13 3/4 in. × 27 ft. 6 5/16 in. (34.9 × 839 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: John M. Crawford Jr. Collection, Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.278


Huizong was the eighth emperor of the Song dynasty and the most artistically accomplished of his imperial line. Finches and Bamboo exemplifies the realistic style of flower-and-­bird painting practiced at Huizong’s academy. Whether making a study from nature or illustrating a line of poetry, however, the emperor valued capturing the spirit of a subject over literal representation. Here the minutely observed finches are imbued with the vitality of their living counterparts. Drops of lacquer added to the birds’eyes impart a final lifelike touch.