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″The Eighteen Scholars″ (Zither)

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Zither)

Anonymous, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 173.7 x 102.9 cm

Lofty pines rise around a large lake rock standing in a platform planter dotted with red, white, and violet peonies, the flowers and stone competing in splendor. A scholar sits majestically in the center ready to play the zither for a gathering of friends. On the table is a burner with incense wafting upwards in the form of a crane standing on one leg. With the pine trees, it suggests the expression "pine of long life, crane of longevity." A young attendant prepares a zither in front as others off to the side hold a fan, box, or tea. To the rear are a carved polychrome lacquer box, porcelain tea cups, and a planter of coral. The objects and displays reveal the lofty and elegant leisurely pursuits of scholars.

The figures are seated around a black-lacquer flush-sided corner-leg table with an inlaid surface of burl wood featuring beautifully exotic patterning. The figure in the middle is seated upright on a daybed, on which is placed a backrest seat with armrest ends curving outwards. The person at the right sits holding a fan on a rose chair with tall armrests and top rail. A spacious footrest extends in front for a light and elegant effect. There are also carved-lacquer and constricted-waist porcelain stools. The former is decorated with ruyi-cloud and geometric designs, while the latter features decorative floral openings and drum-stud patterning. The furniture depicted here all accords with middle and late Ming dynasty styles.

''The Eighteen Scholars'' (Go)

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Go)

Anonymous, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 173.6 x 103.1 cm

Willow branches sway in the breeze, the garden setting here complemented by green banana leaves and red pomegranates as well as a fantastic, archaic-looking rock. Placed in front of the scenery are palm, calamus, and mimosa planted in beautiful vessels. Scholars sit on a carved polychrome lacquer daybed and a porcelain stool. Two of them are playing go as another two look on intently. Two attendants are holding backscratchers and another has a round fan. Behind the figures is a folding eight-panel screen, which can also be used as a windbreak. The screen is painted with a landscape in imitation of the Song dynasty Mi Fu and Mi Youren style as mists pervade the scene and envelope trees, a thatched hut partially visible. Behind the screen is a white marble railing, the panels of which are decorated with prancing dragons among clouds. The square post tops with inverted lotus motifs are typical of Ming court stone carving.

In the foreground is a foundation stone table filled with tea and wine vessels as well as a container with peaches on ice. One child attendant holds a white heart-décor porcelain pot and pours tea into the cup on a black-lacquered tray held by another. The teapot and bowl are pure white and lustrous, typical of Jiajing (1522-1566) porcelains and afterwards. The gem-inlaid golden tray, cup, and handled pots are also from this period. The vessels and accessories are all displayed with great refinement, reflecting the meticulous appreciation of refined beauty in the life of upper classes in the Ming dynasty.

″The Eighteen Scholars″ (Calligraphy)

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Calligraphy)

Anonymous, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 173.7 x 103.5 cm

Paulownia trees rise prominently in a garden setting with a mottled-bamboo railing in the background. Erudite scholars with a fondness for antiquity are having a literary gathering. One sits on a daybed holding a brush in a pensive manner. Another holds a scroll and looks down intently. Others sit and read on such furniture as a top-rail "lamp-hanger" side chair, mottled bamboo chair, and porcelain stool. Young attendants to their left and right hold books and scrolls, the painting revealing the art of stitch binding and book casing as well as block printing.

In the center is a standing screen of a landscape painting inserted into buttress supports, a large daybed appearing in front of it. The top of the lacquered table is inlaid with variegated marble, while behind the screen is a high-waisted table with arched cusps and cloud veins decorating its legs. The meticulous form of the mottled bamboo chair has an extension joined in front. This type of elegant and ingeniously designed bamboo furniture was much favored by scholars. In the foreground is a stone table, its patterning similar to the mottled bamboo. On it is a potted pine tree and planters for a stone and calamus to the side. A Jun-ware porcelain imitating an ancient bronze was chosen as a planter, its elegant and archaic blue-green coloring adding refinement to the courtyard.

″The Eighteen Scholars″ (Painting)

"The Eighteen Scholars" (Painting)

Anonymous, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 174.1 x 103.1 cm

In the shade of a verdant locust tree stands emerald bamboo and what appears to be a decorative conglomerate stone in a platform planter. The post top of the garden railing features inverted lotus motifs, the intermediary supports carved in the form of a vase and ruyi-and-cloud forms. Typical of the court style, these often appear in the imperial gardens. A scholar holds a flywhisk in his right hand, his left hand resting below. On the table is a bundle of scrolls as he gazes intently at a painting as if about to say something. Another washes his hands and looks back at the painting, while a scholar with his back to the viewer holds a fan. A total of five attendants hold scrolls and the washbasin, one of the two at the right holding a display rod to support the hanging scroll. The "one-corner" composition of the painting within this painting features "axe-cut" texture strokes and applications of ink washes, the rendering for the tree leaves also quick, suggesting the arrangement and brushwork associated with Ming dynasty artists imitating the manner of the Southern Song artist Ma Yuan.

The furniture in the painting is fine and meticulous. The stretcher-base table with a constricted waist has inward-curling hoof feet on round balls as cloud veins stand out on the legs for a very refined and delicate design. The tabletop is inlaid marble with natural variegated patterning that suggests an ink painting. There is also a rose chair with a footrest stretcher made from delicate pieces of round wood for a very succinct and aesthetic form that represents the refined taste of literati, the design of all the furniture belonging to Ming dynasty styles.