Crabapple and Gardenia

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Artist: Qian Xuan 錢選 (late 13th century)
Calligrapher: Inscription by Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322)
Historical period(s)
Yuan dynasty, late 13th-early 14th century
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 29.3 x 78.3 cm (11 9/16 x 30 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaves (mounted as a handscroll)

China, gardenia, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)

To 1917
Probably Wanyan Jingxian (circa 1848 - circa 1927-29), Beijing, to 1917 [1]

From 1917 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), probably purchased from Wanyan Jingxian, through Seaouke Yue (You Xiaoxi) (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, and Pang Lai Chen (Pang Yuanji) (1864-1949), Shanghai, in Detroit in 1917 [2]

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


[1] According to Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pg. 28 and pg. 38 (notes 146 and 147), Pang Yuanji and Seaouke Yue were paid a commission by Charles Lang Freer for facilitating the sale of five objects (F1917.183- .187) belonging to a "Peking gentleman." Larsen presents evidence and infers that Wanyan Jingxian was likely the unnamed Peking gentleman. See also, Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1177, 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)

Wanyan Jingxian (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1848-ca. 1927-29
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Qian Xuan, a native of Wuxing, Zhejiang Province, was one of the most well-respected, leading scholar-painters of the early Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Qian was a close friend of the most influential painter and calligrapher, Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322).  Both of them were members of a group of scholars known in their time as the Eight Talents of Wuxing.  In addition to his erudition in the Chinese Classics, Qian also excelled in landscape, figure, and bird-and-flower painting.

These two meticulous studies of crabapple and gardenia, originally part of an album, are now mounted as a handscroll.  The refined outline drawing of the leaves and the delicate color of the blossoming flowers evoke the fragile fragrances that can almost be sensed.  The artist's seal is impressed in the lower left corner of each album leaf.  A colophon by Zhao Mengfu is mounted next to the gardenia, in which Zhao comments that these two paintings of gardenia and crabapple are portrayed in a very lifelike manner.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Published References
  • Helen Nebeker Tomlinson. West Meets East: Charles L. Freer Trailblazing Asian Art Collector. Herndon, Virginia. Insert p. 16.
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: pp. 200-201.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles. 7 vols., New York and London, 1956-1958. vol. 6: pl. 36.
  • Laurence Sickman, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 111.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 46, vol. 1: p. 160.
  • Richard Edwards. Ch'ien Hsuan and 'Early Autumn'. vol. 7 Honolulu. p. 72, fig. 9.
  • Peter C. Swann. Art of China, Korea, and Japan. New York. p. 171, fig. 162.
  • Thomas Lawton. Notes on Five Paintings from a Ch'ing Dynasty Collection. vol. 8 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 192-210, fig. 1.
  • Saehyang P. Chung. Yun Shou-p'ing (1633-1690) and the Orthodox Tradition of Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings. Ann Arbor. p. 197.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. pp. 230-231, fig. 163.
  • Shane McCausland. Zhao Mengfu: Calligraphy and Painting for Khubilai's China. Hong Kong. p. 267, fig. 4.2.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
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