Old Weathered Plum Tree With Spring Blossoms And A Poem
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1999.224
People
Cho Hûi-ryong, Korean ( 1797 - 1859)
Title
Old Weathered Plum Tree with Spring Blossoms and a Poem
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
hanging scroll, painting
Date
mid-19th century
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, Korea
Period
Chosôn dynasty, 1392-1910
Culture
Korean
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Folding album leaf (from an album of sixteen leaves) mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on paper, with two rectangular, red, relief seals of the artist reading "Tok Hwa" and "Tae A"
Dimensions
painting proper: H. 28.1 x W. 41.1 cm (11 1/16 x 16 3/16 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 101 x W. 68 cm (39 3/4 x 26 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: inscribed poem and artist's seals
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for the Acquisition of Oriental Art and David A. Ellis Oriental Art Fund
Accession Year
1999
Object Number
1999.224
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
Because it blooms in February, before donning its leaves, the Chinese flowering plum (Prunus mume) is associated with winter and is regarded as a symbol of strength in the face of adversity; in addition, its blossoms symbolize feminine beauty, and its weathered trunk, the humble scholar. These various and noble associations made the plum an appealing subject for traditional literati painters in China, Korea, and Japan. This painting clearly depicts aged plum trees; smooth new shoots spring from rugged ancient branches, so that a variety of textures challenges the endless capabilities of brush and ink. In this painting, overlays of dense black ink suggest rough bark peeling from the massive old trunks.

Although this leaf is not signed, the seals at the beginning and end of the poem indicate that it was painted by Cho Hûi-ryong, the foremost Korean painter of ink plum blossoms during the first half of the nineteenth century. Extremely fond of plum blossoms, he is said to have painted plum trees on all the walls of his studio. The poem on this album leaf translates as:

Fabricating iron into a pen,
Snapping a twig into a hairpin,
Old moss suddenly regains its spring freshness,
[And] vitality harmoniously follows.
An aged crane wearing snow
Flies amongst steep cliffs;
Sitting cross-legged, a lofty monk
Completely empties [his mind] of mortal thoughts.
Translated by Hsueh-man Shen
Exhibition History

A Decade of Collecting: Asian Acquisitions 1990-1999, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 03/11/2000 - 11/05/2000

Plum, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, and Bamboo: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 07/06/2002 - 01/05/2003

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted