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section 2: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 3: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 4: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 5: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 6: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 7: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 8: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 9: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West section 10: The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West

The Peach Festival of the Queen Mother of the West

Type
Handscroll
Maker(s)
Artist: Formerly attributed to Fang Chunnian (ca. 1225-1264)
Historical period(s)
Ming or Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century
Medium
Ink and color on silk
Dimension(s)
H x W (image): 56.6 x 638.1 cm (22 5/16 x 251 1/4 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1908.170
Label
The Queen Mother of the West was one of the most important goddesses of the traditional Chinese pantheon. She dwelt in the Kunlun Mountains, located south of the Takla Makan desert in western China, where according to legend she was visited over the centuries by a number of emperors and Daoist masters seeking the esoteric doctrines that confer immortality. Her most famous encounter reportedly occurred in 110 B.C.E., when she journeyed to the court of Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (reigned 141–87 B.C.E.) and presented him with several magical peaches, which ripen only once every three thousand years. Said to confer immortality when eaten, these special peaches became the most common attribute of the Queen Mother. According to early sources, the peaches of immortality grow not only in the mountain home of the goddess, but also on certain mythological islands in the ocean east of China, where other gods and immortals reside. It is unclear which of these locations is depicted in the current scroll.

The painting shows various groups assembling to celebrate the Queen Mother's birthday. Several palace women and young boys can be seen harvesting ripe peaches at the right end of the displayed section, as an imperial figure and attendant courtiers promenade on a terrace overlooking the small grove. Other male figures appear in the doors and windows of the main palace behind them, while the more distant buildings are populated by women practicing various musical instruments for the approaching celebration. At left, another group of women has ascended a high platform to await the arrival of the goddess from the air.

This lavishly illustrated handscroll was probably produced by a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century workshop that specialized in high-end reproductions of famous works. The scroll bears a spurious signature of Fang Chunnian, who served in the imperial painting academy of the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) and was praised for his depictions of Daoist immortals and Buddhist deities in landscape settings. The Peach Festival is the best-known painting associated with his name.

Collection of an Imperial Duke in Peking [1]

To 1908
Isaac Taylor Headland (1859-1942), Beijing, China, and Alliance, OH, to 1908 [2]

From 1908 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Isaac Taylor Headland in 1908 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]

Notes:

[1] According to an undated note signed by Isaac Taylor Headland (see Curatorial Remark 6, H.E. Buckman, 1963). 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 Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 610, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] 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
Isaac Taylor Headland (C.L. Freer source) (1859-1942)
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Keyword(s)
blue-and-green style, China, Daoism, Daoist Immortals, festival, garden, landscape, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), palace, peach, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Queen Mother of the West
Collection(s) Area
Chinese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum






We are excited to reopen the Freer in October 2017, following a renovation to allow us to better present our art and serve our visitors. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.