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Palace Ladies by a Lotus Pond
18th century

Zhou Wenju , (Chinese, active mid-10th century)
Qing dynasty

Ink and color on silk
H: 38.3 W: 76.8 cm

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1903.114

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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.

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