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section 3: Palace Ladies by a Lotus Pond

Palace Ladies by a Lotus Pond

Artist: Formerly attributed to Zhou Wenju (傳)周文矩 (active mid-10th century)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 18th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 38.4 x 314.4 cm (15 1/8 x 123 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
Signature at lower left; total of 27 seals (17 on painting), four inscriptions (poems) on painting, five colophons, no labels. Unused frontispiece with cloud motif. Ivory pin.

Depicting a scene of women, children and servants (total of fifteen figures) engaged in various activities, including playing weiqi and playing musical instruments, both inside and outside a pavilion overlooking a lotus pond with a pair of mandarin ducks. In the middle there is one figure on each side of a fence covered with a flowering vine. To the left stand a woman and a servant (who holds a zither) in a pavilion containing a table with scholarly implements and a ding, and with a painting on a screen.
This handscroll is attributed to the celebrated painter Zhou Wenju, who served at the court of the Southern Tang kingdom (937-975). Zhou was most highly regarded for his depictions of elegant palace women as they attended their everyday duties. Here, a group of ladies, children, and servants have gathered at a pavilion built over a lotus pond in a residential quarter of the palace grounds. Some of them while away the time with a game of weiqi (better known in the West by its Japanese name, go), which was traditionally considered one of the polite arts. Two other ladies with fishing rods stand by the pond, one of them beckoning a servant to bait her hook.

While this painting bears a general thematic relationship to the tradition associated with Zhou Wenju, the overall composition, use of color, and stylistic execution are much closer to the approach popularized by the Ming dynasty painter, Qiu Ying (ca. 1494-1552), and may have been executed by an eighteenth-century follower after one of his designs.

To 1903
Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), Boston, to 1903 [1]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunkio Matsuki in 1903 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 333, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[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
Bunkio Matsuki 松木文恭 (C.L. Freer source) (1867-1940)
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Currently not on view
child, China, court, fishing, garden, go, lotus, music, palace, pavilion, playing, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), water, woman
Collection(s) Area
Chinese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.