Art

Moon and Melon


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Moon and Melon, 1689
Painting With Calligraphy
, Hanging Scroll
Chinese
,
17th century
Qing dynasty, 1644-1911
Creation Place: China
Hanging scroll: ink on paper; with signature reading "Bada Shanren"
painting proper: H. 73.6 x W. 45.1 cm (29 x 17 3/4 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 209.6 x W. 65.4 cm (82 1/2 x 25 3/4 in.)
A 10-019 (Suzuki Kei)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Earl Morse, Harvard Law School, Class of 1930
, 1964.94
Description
Zhu Da, better known as Bada Shanren, was born into the Yiyang branch of the Ming imperial family in 1626, in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. His work ineradicably changed the course of the history of Chinese painting more than almost any other artist. Despite this impact and his high birth, little is known of his life and even less of his motivations. It is almost certain that most of his family was killed during the dynastic wars at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Zhu Da himself chose sanctuary in Buddhist monasteries, where he remained until the late 1670s. The Buddhist life allowed a person of his capacities tremendous freedom during the seventeenth century. He was able to pursue a quiet life of Buddhist teaching, poetry, and painting and calligraphy. Loyal to the Ming until his death, he refused to serve or even to acknowledge the Qing (1644-1911). The poem on this painting translates:

A Ming cake seen from one side,
The moon, so round when the melons rise.
Everyone points to the mooncakes,
But hope that the melons will ripen is a fool's dream.

Translation by Richard M. Barnhart

During the insurrection that brought about the downfall of the Mongol rule of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) in the fourteenth century, moon cakes were carried by the rebels as recognizable signs of their political allegiance. Although that earlier rebellion succeeded, Zhu Da seems to imply that no uprising against the Manchu Qing has a hope of success. Recent research has shown that the melon was also apparently a symbol of loyalty to the preceding dynasty and that, because of its many seeds, the melon was an embodiment of royal lineage.
Marks
signed: Bada Shanren
Bibliography
Wang Fangyu, "On the Poems of Chu Ta", National Palace Museum Quarterly, National Palace Museum, Taipei (Taipei, Taiwan, 1976), XI, No. 1, pp. 39-62, pp. 51-54, figs. 10a and 10b

Suzuki Kei, Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku, Amerika Kanada hen (Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Paintings, Volume 1: American and Canadian Collections), University of Tokyo Press (Tokyo, Japan, 1982), pp. I-55 and I-432, no. A 10-019

Wang Fangyu and Richard M. Barnhart, Master of the Lotus Garden: The Life and Art of Bada Shanren (1626-1705), exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn., 1990), pp. 104-106, fig. 52 (Cat. 8)

Jane Myers, "Independent Creations: Kuniyoshi's Ink Drawings of 1921-25", exh. cat., Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, Texas, 1996), Fig. 35 / page 57

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 106

Dorinda Neave, Lara Blanchard and Marika Sardar, Asian Art, Pearson Education, Inc. (Boston, MA, 2015), p. 216, ill. 9-28

Exhibition History
Chinese Painting and Decorative Arts from the Permanent Collection, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/17/1991 - 01/26/1992
Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/03/1995 - 06/09/1996
A Compelling Legacy: Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/24/2004 - 03/20/2005