A monochrome ink painting on silk of a dragon

元至明早期   雲龍圖 水墨絹本 立軸

The painting is reduced from a larger composition. In the centre the large head of a dragon, with bulging eyes beneath shaggy brows, a large bulbous nose flanked by fleshy whiskers, a beard-fringed closed mouth, and simple tined antlers emerges from roiling clouds. Scaly coils of body and large three-clawed feet with savage claws appear in other parts of the painting, obscured by further clouds. The details of the dragon are finely executed, while the clouds are expertly rendered in soft complex ink washes.

 

Provenance:
Sotheby's New York, November 26 1990, lot 6.

 

It is impossible to mention dragon painting in the context of Chinese art without mentioning the name of the great Southern Song artist Chen Rong (c.1200-1266). His remarkable depictions of dragons, of which some still survive, see for instance Wu Tung, Tales from the Land of Dragons, 1,000 Years of Chinese Paintings, catalogue nos. 92, 93, pp. 197-202, mark the high point in the genre of dragon painting, and all later paintings of dragons, like the present one, must be seen to some extent to be paying homage to the great master. In this context it is difficult to assign dates with confidence. Here, we are fortunate that another painting, sold at auction in Shanghai and clearly by the same hand, has survived.  In the Shanghai painting waves are visible in the lower part of the painting, which are painted in an unusual and particular way, with small flecks in the waves' crests, closely resembling those seen on the two famous Yuan dynasty blue and white meiping of octagonal section in the Hebei Provincial Museum in Shijiazhuang, illustrated, for example, in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, 3. Hebei, catalogue nos. 218, 219. This detail, taken together with the wonderful subtlety of the sfumato ink washes to depict the clouds, and the early structure of the silk weave, lend confidence to an early date for the present painting.

 


Dimensions: Dimensions: 83 x 88 cm, 32 ⅝ x 34 ⅝ inches

Date: Ming dynasty (1368-1644) or earlier, 14th/15th century

Price: On Request