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The Nymph of the Luo River, a handscroll painting

 

Height: 536.000 mm
Width: 8315.000 mm

Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

Asia OA 1930.10-15.02 (Chinese Painting Add. 71)

Asia

    The Nymph of the Luo River, a handscroll painting

    China
    Possibly Jin dynasty (AD 1115-1234) or late Ming/early Qing dynasties (16th-18th century AD)

    This is a depiction of the famous prose-poem (fu), the Luoshen fu by Prince Caozhi (AD 192-232). Written in AD 222, it tells the tale of Caozhi's meeting with the Nymph of the Luo River (Luoshen), a daughter of the mythical ruler Fuxi. It is a doomed romance, for in Caozhi's own words, 'men and gods must follow separate ways'.

    Since the fourth century, the poem has been a popular subject of narrative handscrolls. The handscroll format enhances the lyricism of the poem, with the narrative revealed in a continuous flow. The text appears in cartouches at regular intervals. Stylistically, the landscape and the figures in the foreground and middle-ground have been rendered in an archaic manner. The distant scenery appears less mannered. Exquisite details like paired birds and flowering lotuses enhance the romantic theme.

    This is one of eight surviving versions of this story found in museums around the world. It provides no clue as to its previous history, and its date is uncertain. The usual title calligraphy, appended colophons and seals are absent. A small section is also missing at the beginning of the scroll. Based on the style of the distant landscapes, it has been dated to the Jin dynasty (1115-1234). Another view judges this to be a late Ming, early Qing dynasty copy of an earlier work.

    A. Farrer, The brush dances and the ink s (Hayward Gallery, London, 1990)

    K. Suzuki (ed.), Comprehensive illustrated cata (University of Tokyo Press, 1982)

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