Yang Meizi (Chinese, 1162–1232; empress to Ningzong, from 1202–24)
Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on silk; 5 columns in regular script; 9 1/8 x 9 5/8 in. (23.2 x 24.4 cm)
Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988 (1989.363.12)
During the Southern Song, artists and connoisseurs who wished to express their emotional responses to paintings frequently added poems to them. Empress Yang's poems appear on a number of paintings by court artists such as Ma Yuan (active ca. 11901225) and Ma Lin (active ca. 1180after 1256). This quatrain must once have complemented a fan painting of flowers, but it reveals more about the empress' state of mind than about the lost painting it accompanied:
My makeup worn and faded, only the scent lingers;
Still I shall enjoy spring's beauty before my eyes.
Once you said to me, "How a year blooms quickly
and as quickly dies!
May we now forsake worldly splendors for the land of wine?"