Ma Lin , (Chinese, active early to mid-13th century)
Hanging scroll mounted on panel; ink and color on silk
H: 165.9 W: 106.0 cm
Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1916.478
In Chinese tradition, plum blossoms came to symbolize purity of character, courage in the face of adversity, the transience of beauty, and the rebirth of hope. From early times, poets in China played off these various associations and the blossoming plum gradually evolved into a favorite metaphor for the impoverished scholar and recluse from society. In times of turbulence and uncertainty, it was also used as an emblem of the nation as a whole.
A spurious signature of the thirteenth-century court painter Ma Lin has been added on the lower trunk of the plum tree, while the inscription in the upper right corner, ostensibly by the late-Ming calligrapher Wang Duo (15921652), is also a forgery. This is most likely a work by a sixteenth-century painter associated with the Ming dynasty court.