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Chinese Anonymous,
Peddler with Customers, 15-16 c.
Paint on Silk
67 1/8 in. x 39 in. (170.5 cm x 99.06 cm)


Object Type: Scroll
Technique: Brushwork
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. William Bacon Pettus
Accession Number: PE2


Commentary
The style associated with Liu Songnian can be seen in its detailed, naturalistic style, but the depiction of the objects, as well as other stylistic details of the brushwork clearly points to a later Ming dynasty date than Song dynasty painter Liu Songnian. The quality of the painting is high and was typical of court painting of the Ming. Several banners in the painting have writing on them, mostly identifying categories of objects for sale such as medicine, tea, ritual objects, incense etc.. This painting is a very good candidate for conservation based on the wide variety of uses it would have for Asian Studies curriculum, since the work has not only artistic merit, but also contributes to an understanding of daily life in imperial China through its depiction of material culture.
Professor Kathleen Ryor, Carleton College

This meticulously detailed depiction of an itinerant vendor of toys, medicines, tea and household goods showing his wares to a lady, her servant and a child is an extraordinary example of Ming Dynasty court paintings of the 15th-16th centuries. It is done with finely brushed ink outlines and thickly applied colors.

The painting was clearly done by a highly skilled professional artist. One of the banners behind the peddler carries the name of Liu Songnian (1073-1157) who was well known for his depictions of Song Dynasty street scenes, but this inscription should be understood as a reference to an important artist whose works were emulated and copied during the Ming Dynasty.

Such genre images, while popular among the wives and children of imperial court officials, have not survived in large numbers, due in part to the fragility of the silk and to the changing tastes of art collectors in China. As Katherine Ryor, Professor of Asian art history at Carleton College, noted in 2014 “This painting is a very good candidate for conservation based on the wide variety of uses it would have for Asian Studies curriculum, since the work has not only artistic merit, but also contributes to an understanding of daily life in imperial China through its depiction of material culture.”

The wealth of detail in the portrayal will encourage close examination by students in Asian art history courses, who are quite curious about the types of domestic goods available to middle class and wealthy families in the 15th-16th centuries. It is a dramatic contrast to other figure paintings in the Scripps College Collections of beautiful women, old fishermen, scholars, and Daoist and Buddhist deities.
Dr. Bruce Coats, Scripps College

Inventory card lists object as Sung period Peddler, by Lui Sung Nien.

Marks
No seals or signature.

Professor Kathleen Ryor, Carleton College

Medium
Multicolored paints on silk, with a silk brocade mounting.

Object Description
Hanging scroll depicting a peddler bearing a large load in the foreground. To his left is a well-dressed woman and a servant holding a child. A large tree in blossom is to the peddler's right. The scroll is bordered by peach and cerillian blue silk brocade.

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