Gathering of Government-Officials

Artist: Unidentified Artist

Period: Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)

Date: ca. 1551

Culture: Korea

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Dimensions: Image: 51 x 26 3/4 in. (129.5 x 67.9 cm)
Overall with mounting: 82 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (209.6 x 84.5 cm)
Overall with knobs: 82 1/2 x 36 in. (209.6 x 91.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Acquisitions Fund, and The Vincent Astor Foundation and Hahn Kwang Ho Gifts, 2008

Accession Number: 2008.55


In this work, the title and the list of participants, which normally would have framed the painting at top and bottom, have been disposed of altogether and replaced at the top by a verbal description of the event. Moreover, the landscape and figures are equally prominent, though the central placement of the rocky mountains and winding stream endows nature with the greater importance. At the same time, the scholars and their attendants, under tall pine trees in the bottom right corner, are rendered meticulously and clearly. This painting, especially its landscape elements, presents a remarkably accurate yet creative rendering of the An Gyeon style, including an indirect reference to the Northern Song painter Guo Xi. This is the work of a highly sophisticated court painter who has successfully reinvigorated the enduring pictorial paradigms of the past—distant and immediate, foreign and native—in a distinctive and eloquent style. Jeong Sa-ryong, a government offi cial and famous literatus, poet, and calligrapher, wrote the poetic inscription in 1551, identifying the event as a commemorative reunion of sixty-year-old men who entered the government around the same time. It offers a vivid description of the camaraderie of the friends and colleagues depicted in the painting, recounting a gathering to drink and recite poetry during a break in their jobs. An English translation of the poem is as follows:

Born in the same year we stood shoulder to shoulder.
Passed the civil or military examination at more or less
the same time.
Time passes, and now we are facing seventy years of age.
Dressed in elegant clothing and hats, wise men meet.
We emulate the Literary Gathering of Luoyang,
And the painting shows respect for the elders, following
Xiang San.
We pause in our busy schedules and recite poetry
over wine
Then hasten back to the offices to labor day and night.
Our gathering is humble and frugal, modeled after
Whoever said loftiness is easily followed?
Lacking poetry for this great event, I raise my glass.
Lacking talent, my thoughts turn blank.
Written in the latter half of the twelfth month of 1551.