After Xie Huan (Chinese, ca. 1370ca. 1450)
Handscroll; ink and color on silk; 14 3/8 x 94 3/4 in. (36.7 x 240.7 cm)
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1989 (1989.141.3)
This painting documents a historical gathering of nine scholar-officials enjoying cultural pursuits while savoring spring weather in the Apricot Garden in Beijing in 1437. The host, Yang Rong (13711440), seated in front of an ornamental rock, has thoughtfully provided scholarly amusements, such as antiques, paintings, brushes and ink, and games, for his illustrious guests.
These portraits of prestigious court officials depict them secure in their positions and in complete harmony with their surroundings. The meticulous attention to each individual's facial features as well as the varied, descriptive brushwork in the rocks and trees in the surrounding garden are typical of early Ming court taste.
Mounted after the painting are poems composed by all of the participants to commemorate this gathering, beginning with a preface inscribed in a dignified clerical script by Yang Shiqi (13651444), the oldest member in attendance and, as chief advisor to the emperor, the highest-ranking government official of his day. An inscription by Weng Tonghe (18301904) on the brocade mounting preceding the painting identifies all the participants. Based on a composition by the noted court painter Xie Huan, the painting is most likely a contemporary copy made for one of the other participants at the gathering.