Unidentified artist (16th century)
Hanging scroll, ink on silk; 31 1/2 x 15 3/4 in. (80 x 40 cm)
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift and Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1994 (1994.439)
A wind-tossed grapevine, heavy with ripening fruit, the rustling of its dessicated leaves almost audible, is rendered with a variety of masterfully handled brush techniques. The sway of the serpentine branch in large arcs is executed with strokes of changing speed and pressure to suggest both contour and volume in a technique known as "flying white" (in which areas of the unpainted silk show through). The contrasting textures of plump fruitrendered without outlines in the so-called boneless style of brushworkand brittle leaves are achieved with carefully modulated tones of wet and dry ink that create a luminosity within the painting. This work is probably a fragment of a larger composition, which may have included a poetic inscription by the artist.
Ink-monochrome compositions executed in a highly calligraphic style such as this example are associated with amateur literati painters. The subject of grapevine rendered in ink, like the Four Gentlemenplum, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboowas favored by Chinese and Korean literati painters alike. Among the Korean artists who won fame as painters of grapevines were Sin Jam (14911554) and Sin Saimdang (15041551), the first female painter recorded in Korean history. Paintings of this kind were most often viewed in the sarangbang, the study and living quarters of the male heads of yangban households. In keeping with Confucian aesthetic sensibilities, these rooms were furnished simply and modestly, with white paper walls, wood furniture, plain white or blue-and-white-decorated porcelain vessels, writing utensils made of natural materials, books, and ink-monochrome paintings and calligraphy.