Two Eagles, dated 1702
Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) (Chinese, 1626–1705)
Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 73 x 35 3/8 in. (185.4 x 90 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family
Lent by Oscar L. Tang (L.1997.30)
After decades spent concealing his identity as a scion of the Ming royal house, Zhu Da, at the age of seventy-six, seems in this forceful depiction of eagles to be declaring his proud defiance of Manchu Qing rule. There is no immediate precedent for such imagery; instead, the painting harks back to the powerful representations of eagles and hawks created by the early Ming court artist Lin Liang (ca. 1416–1480). Lin's heroic birds are emblems of strength and courage suitable for presentation to censors or military officials. Zhu Da, a fervent Ming loyalist, has personalized this imagery, transforming the conventional symbolism into an expression of brave confrontation and unfaltering loyalty, his noble birds standing sentinel over a landscape now occupied by foreign conquerors.