Branch Of Blossoming Plum
painting proper © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1923.191
People
Liu Shiru [Liu Shih-ju], also known as Xuehu, Chinese ( c. 1517 - after 1601)
Title
Branch of Blossoming Plum
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
Date
mid- to late 16th century
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Period
Ming dynasty, 1368-1644
Culture
Chinese
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Hanging scroll; ink on silk; with signature reading "Xuehu"
Dimensions
painting proper: H. 180.3 x W. 98.4 cm (71 x 38 3/4 in.)
mounting, including cord and roller ends: H. 260.4 x W. 125.1 cm (102 1/2 x 49 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • seal: upper left corner, five artist's seals: 1) to the right of the inscription: "Wan yu lou" (rectangular, relief seal); 2) beneath the inscription, following signature: "Shan yin ren" (circular, intaglio); 3) below seal 2: "Shiru" (square, intaglio); 4) below seal 3: "Hanjiang Diaosou tushu" (rectangular intaglio); 5) a rectangular, relief pictorial seal of a fisherman by a river (i.e., a pictorial representation of the artist's sobriquet, Hanjiang Diaosou)
  • inscription: upper right corner, brush-written in ink beneath colophon, signed: Huangnan Daoren
  • seal: upper right, following colophon and signature: two seals: 1) "Huang Nan"; 2) "Yi Wang zhi zhang"
  • seal: lower right corner: one seal: "Ming Shan Tang lan shuhua yinji" (rectangular, intaglio seal)
  • inscription: upper left corner, brush-written in ink beneath artist's inscription, signed: Xuehu
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
A 10-005 (Suzuki Kei)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Edward B. Bruce Collection of Chinese Paintings; Gift of Galen L. Stone
Accession Year
1923
Object Number
1923.191
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
A native of Shanyin (modern Shaoxing) in Zhejiang province, Liu Shiru was one of the foremost specialists of ink plum in the sixteenth century. He is said as a boy to have been deeply impressed by the work of a renowned fourteenth-century plum blossom painter, Wang Mian (1287-1359) and to have vowed to devote his life to mastering the subject painted by this master. Not content with merely copying, Liu wandered the hills of his district studying plum trees to enrich his understanding of the subject. In addition to his few extant paintings, his illustrated manual on ink-plum painting, Xuehu meipu, survives to represent his art. Because it blooms in Feburary, before donning its leaves, the Chinese 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.

The artist's poem on this painting, inscribed in the upper left, reads:
A green dragon, it rears up high and seems to reach for the Milky Way
Like jade butterflies, in irregular patterns, unsoiled by mud.
Suddenly the Wind God Fengyi gives forth a wild whistle
And the splendor of spring is scattered all over, east and west.
(Translation by Hans Frankel)
Publication History

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), p. 54, no. A 10-005

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), Cat. #30 / p. 34

Maggie Bickford, Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice: The Flowering Plum in Chinese Art, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn., 1985), pp. 101-103, fig. 45; p. 261, cat. no. 23

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 60-61

Max Loehr, "Aesthetic Delight: An Anthology of Far Eastern Art", Apollo (New Series), Apollo Publications Inc. (London, England, May 1978), vol. CVII, no. 195, pp. 414-421, p. 420, fig. 7

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

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

A Compelling Legacy: Masterworks of East Asian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/24/2004 - 03/20/2005

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

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