Image: 13 1/4 × 21 13/16 in. (33.7 × 55.4 cm)
Overall with mounting: 13 3/4 in. × 27 ft. 6 5/16 in. (34.9 × 839 cm)
John M. Crawford Jr. Collection, Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1981
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 210
Huizong was the eighth emperor of the Song dynasty and the most artistically accomplished of his imperial line. Finches and Bamboo exemplifies the realistic style of flower-and-bird painting practiced at Huizong’s academy. Whether making a study from nature or illustrating a line of poetry, however, the emperor valued capturing the spirit of a subject over literal representation. Here the minutely observed finches are imbued with the vitality of their living counterparts. Drops of lacquer added to the birds’eyes impart a final lifelike touch.
The prince of the Dao was gifted and wise by nature. In the art of painting he attained the ultimate in subtlety. With an ability almost beyond anything human, he could depict the essential character of plants and animals so that they were as though created by nature. In this scroll he has not labored much with ink and colors, yet all is spontaneous and right. It is proper that generations have treasured it. What good fortune for these insignificant birds to have been painted by this sage. Mengfu wrote this colophon with respect.