Cinnabar Chamber Deep in the Mountains

Hongren (Chinese, 1610–1664)

late Ming (1368–1644) or early Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
dated 1656
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 57 7/8 x 40 3/16 in. (147 x 102 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by The Chih Lo Lou Collection, Hong Kong
  • Description

    Hongren was the most important and original of the Anhui School artists. A filial son, he may have joined the resistance movement against the Manchu invaders before renouncing all worldly ties by becoming a Buddhist monk. His landscape painting, inspired by the spare linear style of the recluse-artist Ni Zan (1306–1374) and by the chiseled topography of Anhui’s Yellow Mountain, made him a leading individualist artist of the time.

    This large scroll superbly embodies Hongren’s synthetic approach to painting. The central rock mass evokes eleventh-century monumental landscapes; the modular geometric structure of the central bluff and dry crumbly brushwork recall fourteenth-century masters’ formal experiments; and the arbitrary manipulation of scale reflects the late Ming disregard of naturalism.

    Hongren painted this work as a birthday present for a friend. In his inscription he wishes the recipient longevity and refers to the main structure in the painting as the cinnabar chamber where the elixir of immortality was produced.

    cat. no. 40

  • Provenance

    Ho Iu-kwong (He Yaoguang) Chinese, 1907–2006