Orchids, from an album of flower and rock arrangements in pots

Maker(s)
Artist: Sun Kehong (1532-1610)
Colophon: Wu Hufan (1894-1968)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 1573-1610
Medium
Ink on paper
Dimensions
H x W (image): 26.6 x 45.6 cm (10 1/2 x 17 15/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Karen Y. Wang in memory of her father, Nan-Ping Wong
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1987.1101a
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Album, Painting
Type

Album leaf

Keywords
bonsai, China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), orchid, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

These two leaves are from an album of floral studies by Sun Kehong, a scholar-official who enjoyed painting as a leisure time pursuit.  He was also known for designing an elegant garden-residence, which featured unusual stones and a collection of miniature trees and plants in pots. This pastime may have inspired these paintings. Miniature tree cultivation has been practiced in China since at least the eighth century and was exported to Japan, where it is known as bonsai.

Sun Kehong's style celebrates "plain brushwork" and intentional "naivete" associated with scholar-painters in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). But the images also reveal details about the material culture of the period, including the detail of river-worn pebbles to anchor the orchid's roots, which are set in a "bulb bowl" of a characteristic shape that identifies it as a Jun-ware ceramic. The cloud-shaped rock with grass growing through a perforation reflects a favorite type of Ming painting. Scholars collected rocks and combined them with grass to reproduce the macrocosmic world on a small, comprehensible scale to encourage imaginative journeys within the garden walls.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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