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Courtesans with fan and flute
17th-18th century

Zhang Gui active mid-12th century)
Qing dynasty

Ink and color on silk
H: 228.9 W: 114.3 cm
China

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1916.107

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In the In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, visits to urban pleasure quarters were a regular occurrence in upper-class life. For educated men, an interlude with a courtesan was a time to shake off official duties and Confucian responsibilities, and they enjoyed being entertained by witty and artistically talented women who played chess, wrote poetry, danced, and knew music. This painting of a young woman who suggestively holds a flute is charged with sexual innuendo. Her companion, a more senior courtesan, holds a rose in a gesture that frequently appears in erotic Chinese paintings.