Studio in Bamboo Grove

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Artist: Shen Zhou 沈周 (1427-1509)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, ca. 1490
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 25.5 x 110 cm (10 1/16 x 43 5/16 in)
China, Xiangcheng
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


bamboo, bridge, China, island, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), pavilion, WWII-era provenance

1949 to 1953
C. T. Loo, INC., New York [1]

1953 to 1961
C. T. Loo Chinese Art, New York, NY [2]

Sale, New York, Park-Bernett Galleries, Chinese Art Jades, Porcelains, Sculptures: From the Estate of the Late C. T. Loo & Company, Sold by the Order of the Heirs, October 11, 1962, lot 120/2: “Mountain and River Scenes with Pavilions: Two Paintings.” [3]

By 1982 to 1987
Arthur M. Sackler, New York, NY [4]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Arthur M. Sackler on September 11, 1987 [5]


[1] See C. T. Loo & Company/ C. T. Loo INC, New York, NY stock no. G 9124, copy in object file. The stock card reports that the painting came from China in “Mar 1949.” In 1948, Loo lost access to trade in and export from China; perhaps this object was shipped before Loo lost all ability to conduct Chinese trade. In 1948, he began operating as C. T. Loo, INC.

[2] C. T. Loo formed C. T. Loo, INC. in 1948, when his former company, C. T. Loo & Company lost direct access to trade in China. In 1950, Loo announced his retirement and named his associate, Frank Caro as his successor. Frank Caro took over C. T. Loo & Company, with Loo serving as a silent partner, on September 1, 1952. Caro rebranded the company as C. T. Loo Chinese Art. C. T. Loo, INC was dissolved by the summer of 1953.

[3] C. T. Loo & Frank Caro’s agreement, which stipulated Loo would fund Caro’s operation of C. T. Loo Chinese Art through 1961. Loo’s heirs (Monique, Denise, Olga, and Janine Loo Pierre-Emmanuel) sold the remaining objects that C. T. Loo & Company owned and other New York properties. See: Park-Bernet Galleries, INC. Chinese Art: Jades, Porcelains, Sculptures from the Estate of the Late C. T. Loo Sold by the Order of the Heirs (New York, October 10 -11, 1982) no. 410.

[4] Arthur M. Sackler had the object in his collection at the time of the July 28, 1982 agreement to gift objects to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

[5] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
C.T. Loo, INC. ca. 1948-no later than July 1953
C.T. Loo Chinese Art 1953 - 1961


Shen Zhou, a native of Xiangcheng, ten miles north of Suchou, was a poet, calligrapher and painter. He was the teacher of Wen Zhengming and Tang Yin, together with Qiu Ying, they were the Four Great Masters of the Ming dynasty. Shen Zhou was considered as the founder of the Wu School and made Suchou a leading center for art.

This short handscroll depicts a studio, which contains a small group of thatched and tiled huts surrounded by a bamboo grove on a small and flat island at a lake side. A scholar with a lute and a container of books sits in the hut in front of a calligraphy screen. There is a bridge behind the hut connecting the island with the mountain path. An open pavilion is located on the near shore across from the island. There is a group of tall trees in the left foreground hills, which gives a view from the studio.

Although the painting is not signed, the seal 'Chinan' and the distinct personal style of the brushwork and coloring clearly indicate Shen Zhou as the author of the painting. A poem by Shen Zhou in seven-character meter on a separate piece of paper attached at the end of the painting. Both the content of the poem and the size of the paper indicate that it was originally composed and written for this short handscroll. Together with the poem by Wang Ao at the end, both poems concern the owner of the studio's 'The Love of Bamboo.'

According to the records, in 1471, Shen Zhou built the new studio located less than a mile from his old family house. He wrote an essay to obtain bamboo from friends to be planted around the studio. Shen Zhou named the studio Yuzhuchu, 'The Bamboo Dwelling.' His uncle and friends presented Shen Zhou with a series of poems to commemorate the event. Aside from the Sackler painting, there is another famous handscroll entitled 'The Bamboo Dwelling,' listed among the recorded painting by Shen Zhou. Among the many poems attached to that scroll, there is a poem and a colophon dated in 1467 by Hsu Youjen (1407-1472). Another colophon dated in 1478 by Wu Kuan (1436-1504) mentioned that 15 years ago he had visited 'The Bamboo Dwelling.' These colophons indicate that the studio may have already existed in early 1460s.

Although the Sackler painting is not dated, judging from the style and the seal 'Baishih Weng' which was used only after Shen Zhou was sixty, the painting could not have been done before 1486. So the painting may be datable to around 1490. Because Shen Zhou lived for another 19 years, this painting may still be considered as a painting from his late middle period."

Published References
  • Jan Stuart. A Scholar's Garden in Ming China: Dream and Reality. vol. 3, no. 4 New York, Fall 1990. pp. 44-45.
  • Sale Catalogue, October 11, 1962. New York, 1962. lot 410/2, p.86.
  • Les Trois Reves du Mandarin. Exh. cat. Brussels. cat. 114, pp. 144-5.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 191, p. 287.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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