Cormorants in Misty Moonlight

Artist: Formerly attributed to Cui Bai (active mid- to late 11th century) Follower of Lü Ji (ca. 1420-ca. 1505)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Late 16th century
Zhe School
Hanging scroll mounted on panel; ink on silk
H x W (image): 152.7 x 96.9 cm (60 1/8 x 38 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

China, cormorant, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), moon, willow tree

To 1916
Li Wenqing (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Li Wenqing, in New York, in 1916 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1033, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Li Wenqing (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1869-1931


Pale, lucid ink strokes and horizontal washes create the atmosphere of a breezeless, moonlit night at the water's edge. Three cormorants rest under drooping willow branches; one cranes it neck toward the moon, while its companions doze. The artist exerted only light pressure on the brush, using watery, swiftly executed strokes to create an almost sketch-like effect. The fake inscription dated 1142 at upper right falsely attributes this work to the eleventh-century bird-and-flower painter Cui Bai; however, judging from its composition and loose, quick brushwork, this scroll was probably executed by a follower of the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century artist Lü Ji.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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