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China Anonymous, Chinese
Going Straight to the Plum Blossooms, 1577
Ink on Paper
52 in. x 18 3/8 in. (132 cm x 46.61 cm)

Object Type: Painting
Technique: Brushwork
Period: Ming Dynasty (China, 1368-1644)
Credit Line: Gift of Johan Wilhelm Norman Munthe
Accession Number: XX.1.54

It appears that the painting is by Chen Jiru, who added the inscription dated 1577 at the upper right. If so, it is an extremely early work by Chen, who is best known as a calligrapher, author, and scholar. Chen was very much an amateur painter—a close colleague of Dong Qichang (1555-1636), but with a mild reputation as a painter. This painting, however, if indeed by Chen, shows that he was a fairly accomplished artist at the tender age of 19. This precise seal, Migong, is not found in my reference book on seals, but it could be genuine. In any case, the calligraphy is quite good and very much in Chen’s style. The middle inscription is by someone with the given name Wei and the sobriquet Shipeng shanren, or the Stone Peng-bird Mountain Man. The surname is in the seal [scholar found it illegible]. The inscription to the left is by Wang Shimin, a well-known painter of the next generation who studied under Dong Qichang and must have known Chen Jiru well. All three inscriptions are poems that focus on plum blossoms. This is an interesting painting and well worth conserving.

Professor Peter Sturman, University of California, Santa Barbara

doubtful signature of Chen Jiru

Old number "L1780/18" written in pencil on the backing paper.

Spurious inscription by Xu Wei (1521-1593)

One seal

Spurious inscription by Chen Jiru (1558-1639) dated 1577

One seal

Inscription by Wang Shimin (1592-1680) of a poem by Ouyang Xuan (1283-1357)

The stars of the Big Dipper’s handle begin to open the first branch,
The wandering bees and winter sparrow already know first;
Meeting each other, reluctant to fly away,
Going straight to the plum blossoms, encountering the [spring] season.

One seal

Inscription by Wang Youdun (1692-1758)

Numerous pistils beginning to open, filling the jade branches,
Green tips lower, their shadows cold and thin;
Under the winter sky freezing birds firmly perched for a long time,
The coming snow has not yet vanished.

One seal

Other seals: Lower left

Professor Kathleen M. Ryor, Carleton College

There are four blocks of calligraphy on the painting, each with square red ink seals (all different). There is a rectangular red ink seal stamped in the lower left corner. There is a vertical strip of brocade with characters written on it affixed to the upper right corner on the back.

Black ink brushed onto paper, formerly mounted on off-white silk brocade border. After conservation, painting remounted on indigo silk brocade with Nanjing-style rosewood end knobs.

Object Description
Vertical hanging scroll with a magpie perched on a blossoming plum tree growing from a rocky outcrop surrounded in bamboo.

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