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: Herons and Water Plants

one of set: 12975

Herons and Water Plants

Hanging scroll
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 1368-1644
Ink and color on silk
99.0 x 43.2 cm
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
Decorative yet realistic paintings of bird-and-flower subjects enjoyed enormous popularity at the Ming court and among privileged members of society. This style suited the contemporary taste and resembled a school of imperially sponsored painting that had been popular during the Song dynasty (960-1279), a period of great cultural blossoming. The Ming emperors intentionally recalled the Song to bolster their position as sophisticated Chinese rulers aware of and equal to the past heritage.

The style of this work compresses space so that the picture reads as a harmonious decorative pattern, yet it also offers a view of natural pond life. This style that combines ornament and naturalism is associated with the court artist Lü Ji (ca.1420-ca.1505) and his circle. The theme of egrets relies on visual punning, or a rebus, and takes into account that the Chinese word for egret sounds like another word that means wealth through official position.

To 1893
Tozo Takayanagi, New York, NY, to 1893 [1]

From 1893 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Tozo Takayanagi in June 1893 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See List of Kakemono Reserved, No. 21, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Former owner
C.L. Freer source: Tozo Takayanagi
On View Location
Currently not on view
bird, China, heron, lotus, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)
Collection(s) Area
Chinese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

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