A portrait of a scholar, hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, unsigned

        儒士肖像     設色絹本  立軸

The work is of horizontal format, executed in ink and colour on silk. It depicts a bearded scholar wearing a long voluminously sleeved Confucian-style robe (rupao) of light patterned fabric beneath a pale-brown outer coat. On his head he wears a tall black hat of the type known as sifangpingding jin (“All Corners Pacified Cap”).  He stands in the centre of the composition, gazing directly out at the viewer. On the left of the picture in a deferential pose looking towards his master, stands a page-boy holding a cloth-covered qin, while further to the left appears the stout trunk of a tree, with a leafy branch extending over the head of the young servant.

The painting has a simple Japanese-style hanging-scroll mount.

The fashion for scholars to have their portraits painted as if in outdoor locations was at its height in the late Ming dynasty. A small number of portraitists’ names have come down to us, perhaps the most famous being that of Zeng Jing (曾鲸, 1564-1647), who painted the portraits of several of the well known artists of his day. In the case of the present painting, the artist is working within the well-established trope of scholar, qin-bearing acolyte and tree-trunk. An early example, though not a portrait, is Ma Yuan’s (馬遠, fl. 1190-1224) work entitled “Mountain Path in Spring”, illustrated  by Chin Hsiao-yi , China at the Inception of the Second Millennium, Art and Culture of the Sung Dynasty, 960-1279, IV-5, p. 178-9, where the scholar gazes out towards birds in flight.  Somewhat closer to our artist’s day is Tang Yin’s (, 1470-1524) “Scholar at Leisure”, illustrated by Tseng Hsien-ch’i,  Portfolio of Chinese Paintings, (Yüan to Ch’ing Periods), plate 55.   For Ming portraitists, this arrangement of elements provided a ready-made format, requiring only the turning of the scholar’s gaze towards the viewer to change it from a generic scene to a portrait.

It is possible that the present work has been trimmed and mounted into its current form to decorate a Japanese tea-ceremony tokonoma alcove. If so, the identities of the subject and artist may have been removed in order to lend the painting greater universality.

Dimensions: Height: 31.8 cm (12 1/2 in.), width: 59.6cm (23 1/2 in.)

Date: Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Stock No. 2182

Price: On Request