A Phoenix and two cranes under a tree

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 16th-17th century
Medium
Ink and color on silk
Dimensions
H x W (image): 176.3 x 92 cm (69 7/16 x 36 1/4 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1916.91
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Keywords
China, crane, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), phoenix, tree
Provenance

To 1916
Li Wenqing (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Li Wenqing, in New York, in 1916 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]

Notes:

[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1263, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. See also, LVC Catalogue, 1915, No. 30.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Li Wenqing (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1869-1931

Label

Known since the Song dynasty (960-1279) as the "king of birds," the phoenix symbolizes the emperor's power and prestige. Here, the regal phoenix towers over the other birds, who seem loath to gaze directly at it. The phoenix is often portrayed flanked by attendant birds-a role played here by two cranes. Moreover, a number of objects are exclusively associated with this mythical bird, among them the paulownia (wu tong) tree, whose branches it is believed are the only ones upon which a phoenix is willing to perch.

Published References
  • Frederick William Gookin. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Paintings, Sculptures and Jade Objects from the Collection formed by Charles Lang Freer, and Given by Him to the Nation through the Smithsonian Institution, Exhibition November 15 to December 8, 1917. Exh. cat. Chicago, November 15 - December 8, 1917. cat. 29, opp. p. 30.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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