(paintings dated 1610-1648)
Traveler in Autumn Mountains
Fan painting, ink and color on gold-coated paper
50.2 x 16.4 cm. (19 ¾ x 6 ½ in.)
“For autumn colors it is enjoyable to search them out,
on mountain after mountain red leaves are everywhere;
You should be a painstaking poet,
who grasps his staff (and travels) without tiring.
Painted during autumn of the year 1644 for Yansheng, my elder brother in poetry,
Two artist’s seals; two collector seals
In accord with the artist’s poem, a traveler with staff strolls on a path through the mountains, pausing to savor the autumnal colors of the tree foliage before him. In the distance a sea of clouds covers the bases of serried ranges of mountains.
Zheng Zhong was born in Shexian, Anhui province, site of the famous Yellow Mountains, and home of Tiandu Peak, a name appearing in one of Zheng Zhong’s by-names. In 1614 Zheng submitted a painting to the Wanli emperor in Beijing and was thus called to work there. Later he did wall paintings for temples in Hangzhou and Nanjing but was likely already back home in Anhui when Beijing fell to the Manchus in 1644 when he painted the present evocative work.
The folding fan had been invented in Japan by the time of its mention in an early 10th century Japanese dictionary and was known in China at least from the 13th century onward. While it is not clear whether the painted fans gifted to the Northern Song court by the Japanese were folding fans, according to Zhou Mi (1232-1298) writing about Hangzhou during the 13th century, Japanese folding fans were commonly on sale there although these seem to have been undecorated. An interest in folding fans was revived among artists from the 15th century onwards when artists such as Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming and their followers in Suzhou turned the art into a local specialty. Zheng Zhong was heir to that tradition.
(late 15th-early 16th century)
Confucian and Buddhist in Conversation
Fan-shaped painting, ink on paper
19.0 x 49.5 cm. (7 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.)
One artist’s seal: Gessen
A figure in scholar’s robe stands to the left, listening patiently to a monk who gestures with his fan while laughing. A pine to the right extends upward and then reenters the picture on the left to frame the two protagonists. Pictorial renditions of debates between advocates of different philosophies or religions are known especially from the Song dynasty in China and during the Song-Yuan era were brought back by Japanese monks returning home. Similarities between the present painting and such Chinese works, and especially the intuitive, abbreviated renderings of Chan painters, suggest inspiration and even possible models for the artist of the present painting, late 15th-early 16thcentury priest-painter Shabaku, whose expressive brushwork appears most appropriate for his subject. Shabaku, also known as Gessen, an alternate name that appears on the seal here, had studied the art of Shūbun (ca. 1414-1463) and was also influenced by the style of Sōami (1485?-1525), influences clear in the present work.
One might note the absence of any sign that this painting was ever mounted as a fan. The lines normally left when the multiple bamboo ribs are detached from a true fan painting are simply not present. The painting was not only never mounted as a fan but was most likely never intended to be. The semi-circular folding-fan shape was, however, an attractive, challenging and suggestive format not surprisingly chosen by artists who desired to work on a small format, and those culturally drawn to the time-honored shape.
Diameter of each: 20.1 cm. (7 7/8 in.)
Height of each: 3.2 cm. (1 1/4 in.)
Ming dynasty; early 17th century
Each shallow, thin porcelain dish, formed with rounded sides rising to a slightly flared rim, is decorated with a pattern of three folding-fan motifs radiating from the center of each dish, one with a repeat pattern of florets, one a landscape with figures, and the third with a pair of birds in a riverine setting, the fans primarily in underglaze-blue with details and highlights in red, green and yellow overglaze enamels, with butterflies airborne amongst the fans. The rims are decorated with petal bands in underglaze blue and red-and-green enamels. On the underside are three groups of iron-red berry branches with stems outlined swiftly in black and infilled with green. The shallow foot of each dish has kiln grit adhering.
All the elements of a style produced at Jingdezhen during the early 17th century for the Japanese market are present here. They are referred to in Japan and the West by their Japanese name, ko-aka-e, “old red-decorated” ware, and alternatively as Tenkei aka-e, “Tianqi red-decorated” ware, based on the general period of their production, the Tianqi reign era of 1620 to 1627. Like the ko-sometsuke (“old blue-decorated”) ware contemporaneously produced for Japan, the casual potting, painting, and finish are characteristics cherished by Japanese tea aficionados. The Chinese potters also appealed to their clients with décor that would surely pull at their heartstrings, here multitudinous folding fans and their winning designs.
Dimensions: 38.4 x 23.5 x 4.0 cm. (15 1/7 x 9 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.)
Edo period, 18th century A.D.
The remarkably realistic folding-fan form was constructed from a low-fired clay, the ceramic glazed overall aside from spur marks on the base and the tips of the three short cylindrical feet on the base. The fan is decorated with the “Three Friends of Winter,” pine, plum and bamboo, in jewel-like overglaze-enamel colors on the thick, slightly crackled, milky glaze of greyish tinge.
By the mid-17th century Kyoto had come under the influence of a new wave of tea ceremony masters led by Kobori Enshū (1579- 1647) and Kanamori Enshū (1584-1656) whose aesthetic mindsets had graduated from the austerity, restraint, modesty and economy promoted by Sen no Rikyū (1521-1591), widening the scope of tea taste and making the explosion of gaiety and color in the world of ceramics possible. Kyō-yaki, “Kyoto ceramics,” added gemlike sparkle and gleam to a world overflowing with exquisite paintings, lacquer work, and textiles, and ceramic decorators were certainly not blind to these contributions. Actual folding fans were a popular accouterment in Kyoto society and a favorite format of her painters. while the ceramic decorator here executed a captivating and festive decorative scene in signature blue and green pigments punctuated with red and gold.