Lilac and Calligraphy

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Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, ca. 1690
Two album leaves; ink and color on paper
H x W (.1 image): 20.1 x 14.6 cm (7 15/16 x 5 3/4 in) H x W (.2 image): 20.1 x 14.5 cm (7 15/16 x 5 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Bequest from the collection of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, donated in their memory by Mr. Shao F. Wang
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaves

China, flower, lilac, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Shao F. Wang collection

To 1997
Wang Fangyu (1913-1997) and Sum Wai (1918-1996), to 1997 [1]

To 1998
Shao F. Wang, New York and Short Hills, NJ, by descent, to 1998 [2]

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Shao F. Wang in 1998


[1] According to Curatorial Note 4, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 7, 1998, and Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, August 18, 1998, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Shao F. Wang
Wang Fangyu 1913-1997
Sum Wai 1918-1996


Although Bada Shanren occasionally painted lilacs, the flower lies outside his normal repertory of botanical subjects. It is also highly unusual that Bada painted the plant's leaves and blossoms in such deep, opaque colors; only one similar work by him is known, perhaps created for the same album from which only these two leaves still survive. The calligraphy inscription on the facing leaf reads: "Spring of the gengwu year [1690], imitating the painting style of Baoshan [Lu Zhi, 1496-1576]. Bada Shanren."

Lu Zhi, whose sobriquet was Baoshan, is primarily known as a landscape painter but was also famed for his sensitive flower studies, which generally bear little resemblance in style or execution to the current painting leaf. As is often the case with Bada Shanren, the precise basis for his assertion of stylistic affinity with a particular artist remains elusive. Under his signature on the calligraphy, Bada also impressed a unique seal that not only depicts a mountain but may also be read as the Chinese character for "mountain," thereby creating a truly striking and original addition to his composition.

Published References
  • Joseph Chang, Quianshen Bai, (Catalogue) Stephen Allee. In Pursuit of Heavenly Harmony: Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren from the Bequest of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 42-43, pp. 42-43.
  • Yuan Li. "近距离阅读大师." Exploring the Enigmas of Bada Shanren – Freer’s Special Exhibition Review., 284. Shanghai, May 2016. F1998.58.1 and F1998.58.2, p. 65.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 244-251.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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