Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Image 38 3/4 x 24 5/8 in. (98.4 x 62.5 cm), Overall with mounting 83 x 27 in. (210.8 x 68.6 cm), Overall with knobs 83 x 30 5/8 in. (210.8 x 77.8 cm)
Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1989 (1989.155)
According to the inscription written in gold at the upper right corner, this image was produced in an imperial painting atelier "by order of the imperial concubine Shen at dawn on the first day of the fourth lunar month in the renyin year of the Jiajing era [May 6, 1542]."
The painting depicts Marshal Wang, a popular deity "known for his ability to crush human villains and malevolent river spirits." In this dense composition, Marshal Wang and other Daoist gods and demons are depicted on top of curling clouds, while hissing snakes writhe across green rippling waves below. Only the blue sky, breaking through the clouds in the upper corners, offers a suggestion of spatial depth. Such shallow compositions with figures flatly arrayed along the picture plane are typical of Daoist (and Buddhist) wall paintings.