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Landscape in the Style of Li Tang
mid-16th century

Qiu Ying , (Chinese, ca. 1494-1552)
Ming dynasty

Ink and color on paper
H: 29.9 W: 729.8 cm

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This handscroll by Qiu Ying, one of the four masters of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), bears the red seal marks of many previous owners, including Xiang Yuanbian (1525-1590), the artist's major patron. A professional artist, Qiu Ying was renowned for his unusual ability to paint in both an academic, highly refined style and in a more scholarly, calligraphic mode. Here, Qiu Ying created his own mixture of styles, while also basing his work on the antique model of of the Song dynasty painter Li Tang (circa 1070s - ca. 1150s). The painting is a panoramic landscape filled with public and private buildings, including business establishments and residences.

One of the most eye-catching structures is a typical Ming dynasty scholar's garden located to the left of a small wooden bridge, which a scholar crosses on his way from visiting the garden proprietor. The property is surrounded by a wall, a quintessential feature of Chinese garden architecture; bamboo, drawn in ink and colored with blue wash, grows inside the courtyard. Chinese scholars referred to bamboo as a "gentleman" and symbol of moral integrity, since its stalks always return upright, even after bending in a violent wind.

Beyond the scholar's garden (to the left), Qiu Ying depicted a tavern, with customers inside eating a meal. Farther to the left, a second garden is depicted with two scholars sitting on a terrace overlooking water. The red lacquer table visible inside one pavillion suggests the fine furnishings that most Ming garden owners enjoyed; its portrayal here is unusual, as many Ming artists downplayed the luxury of garden villas.

Best known for his precise, jewel-like landscapes, here Qiu Ying mostly used free, lively brushwork and soft colors. Later collectors who admired this painting noted the rarity of seeing a landscape by Qiu Ying with such a spontaneous style of brushwork.

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