Art/ Collection/ Art Object
{{img.publicCaption}}

明 吳彬 十六羅漢圖 卷
The Sixteen Luohans

Artist:
Wu Bin (active ca. 1583–1626)
Period:
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Date:
dated 1591
Culture:
China
Medium:
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 12 5/8 x 163 9/16 in. (32.1 x 415.4 cm) Overall with mounting: 13 1/4 x 398 1/16 in. (33.7 x 1011.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1986
Accession Number:
1986.266.4
Not on view
In the Chinese popular imagination, mendicant monks, conjurers, and mysterious hermits were often thought to be disguised “living luohans,” or Buddhist holy men capable of producing miracles. When government corruption and ineptitude imperiled social order, as it did in late Ming times, such superstitious messianic beliefs became more widespread. Here, in one of his earliest extant works, Wu Bin embraced an archaic figure style and followed the tradition of depicting luohans as fantastic eccentrics whose grotesque features belie their inner spiritual nature. Wu’s humorous painting may have had a serious message: holiness can be concealed within an outwardly incongruous form.
By 1600 Wu Bin, who began painting in his native Fujian Province, had moved to the southern capital, Nanjing, where he served as a court-appointed painter specializing in landscapes and Buddhist subjects. A lifelong devotee of Buddhism, Wu entered an order of untonsured monks affiliated with the Chan Buddhist Qixia Temple in Nanjing.

In Chinese popular imagination, mendicant monks, conjurors, and mysterious hermits were often thought to be disguised “living luohans,” or Buddhist holy men capable of magic and miracles. When government corruption and ineptitude imperiled social order, as it did in late Ming times, such superstitious messianic beliefs became more widespread.

Reveling in oddity, Wu Bin’s art represents a fin-de-siècle rebellion in painting style. In The Sixteen Luohans, one of his earliest extant works, the artist has already begun to invent an eccentric archaism in figure painting that was to influence late Ming figure painters, most notably Chen Hongshou (1598–1652; acc. no. 2005.112a–l), as well as woodblock artists. The theatrical nature of the luohan figures suggests that the artist may have been inspired by popular religious dramas or festival processions.

[Maxwell K. Hearn, How to Read Chinese Paintings, Yale University Press, 2008]
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (2 columns in seal script)

Painted in a guesthouse in Wenling [Quanzhou, Fujian Province] in the xinmao year of the Wanli reign era [1591], Wu bin.

萬曆辛卯嵗於溫陵客舍圖之。吳彬

Artist’s seals

Wenzhong zhi 文中製
Wu Bin yin 吳彬印
Jinsu rulai houshen 金粟如來後身

Frontispiece

Mi Wanzhong 米萬鍾 (1570–1628), 4 characters followed by 2 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 3 seals:

應真變現
眾香居士米萬鍾書。[印]:米萬鍾字仲詔、西方之人兮、書畫船

Colophon

1. Tang Binyin 湯賓尹 (died after 1628), 31 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 3 seals:

《般若波羅蜜多心經》
觀自在菩薩行深般若波羅蜜多時,照見五蘊皆空,度一切苦厄。舍利子,色不異空,空不異色,色即是空,空即是色,受想行識亦復如是。舍利子,是諸法空相,不生不滅,不垢不净,不增不减。故空中無色,無受想行識,無眼耳鼻舌身意,無色聲香味觸法,無眼界,乃至無意識界。無無明,亦無無明盡,乃至無老死,亦無老死盡。無苦集滅道,無智亦無得,以無所得故。菩提薩埵依般若波羅蜜多故心無罣礙,無罣礙故無有恐怖,遠離顛倒夢想,究竟涅槃。三世諸佛依般若波羅蜜多故,得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提。故知般若波羅蜜多是大神咒,是大明咒,是無上咒,是無等等咒,能除一切苦,真寔不虚。故說般若波羅蜜多咒,即說咒曰:揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶。睡庵湯賓尹盥手書。[印]:湯賓尹印、南雍大司成印章、山笑臺

Collectors’ seals

Qing emperor Qianlong 清帝乾隆 (r. 1735–1795)
Qianlong jianshang 乾隆鋻賞
Sanxi Tang jingjian xi 三希堂精鋻璽
Yi zisun 宜子孫
Guxi tianzi 古希天子
Shou 壽
Wufuwudai Tang guxi tianzi bao 五福五代堂古稀天子寳
Bazheng maonian zhi bao 八徵耄念之寳
Qianlong yulan zhi bao 乾隆御覽之寳
Qianqing Gong jiancang bao 乾清宮鋻藏寳
Miji zhulin 祕笈珠林
Midian xinbian 祕殿新編
Zhulin chongding 珠林重定
Taishang Huangdi zhi bao 太上皇帝之寳
Qianlong Gong bao 乾清宮寳

Qing emperor Jiaqing 清帝嘉慶 (r. 1796–1820)
Jiaqing yulan zhi bao 嘉慶御覽之寳

Qing emperor Xuantong 清帝宣統 (r. 1908–1911)
Xuantong yulan zhi bao 宣統御覽之寳
J. D. Chen , Shanghai and Hong Kong (before1956) ; Edward Elliott ; Douglas Dillon , New York (1981–1986; donated to MMA; on loan to MMA from 1981 )
Related Objects

Landscape

Artist: Wu Bin (active ca. 1583–1626) Date: dated 1603 Medium: Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on paper Accession: 13.100.77 On view in:Not on view

Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion

Artist: Qian Gu (Chinese, 1508–ca. 1578) Date: datable to 1560 Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on paper Accession: 1980.80 On view in:Gallery 210

Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute: The Story of Lady Wenji

Date: early 15th century Medium: Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on silk Accession: 1973.120.3 On view in:Gallery 210

Night-Shining White

Artist: Han Gan (Chinese, active ca. 742–756) Date: ca. 750 Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper Accession: 1977.78 On view in:Not on view