Horses and Grooms Crossing a River

View right to left

Artist: Traditionally attributed to Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322)
Historical period(s)
Yuan or early MIng dynasty, 14th century
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 16.8 x 87 cm (6 5/8 x 34 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


China, horse, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), river, water, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)

Fukushima Company, New York 1931 [1]

From 1931
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Fukushima Company, New York in 1931 [2]


[1] Object file, undated folder sheet note.

[2] See note 1. Also see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Fukushima Company


Zhao Mengfu, a descendant of the Song (960-1279) royal family, was a multitalented artist who lived during the early Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) and is regarded as the leading painter and calligrapher of his time. He was skillful in a wide range of subject matter, such as landscape, figure, horse, and bird-and-flower painting. According to his own statement, Zhao learned to draw horses at a relatively young age and believed that his paintings were able to capture the true inner nature of a horse.

In this short handscroll, Zhao depicts three grooms and fifteen horses in various postures crossing a river. By combining the colorful realism of the Tang dynasty (618-907) with the ink line drawing of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) literati tradition, Zhao Mengfu established a new direction for his fellow painters during the transitional years of the late thirteenth century. While the painting does not exhibit the superb skill and fluency of the artist's genuine works, it is probably a close copy of an original composition by Zhao and may have been executed by one of his more accomplished followers.

Published References
  • Nicole Vandier-Nicolas. Chinese Painting: Expression of a Civilization. New York. figs. 130-131.
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1 (1982 ed.): pp. 214-215.
  • Osvald Siren. A History of Early Chinese Painting. 2 vols., London. vol. 2, pl. 103.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles. 7 vols., New York and London, 1956-1958. vol. 6: pl. 18.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. vol. 2: p. 420, fig. 396.
  • Kinjiro Harada. The Pageant of Chinese Painting. Tokyo. pl. 260.
  • The Encyclopedia of World Art. 17 vols., New York, 1959-1968. vol. 3, pl. 199.
  • William Cohn. Chinese Painting. London and New York. pl. 135.
  • Chang Yuan-chien. Jen ch'i t'u and the Horse and Figure Painting of Chao Meng-fu. vol. 17, nos.3-4 Taipei, July/October 1982. pl. 24.
  • Mabel Irene Huggins. The Year of the Horse. vol. 21, no. 7 Uniontown, PA, July 1966. pp. 12-17.
  • Guner Inal. Artistic Relationship Between the Far and Near East as Reflected in the Miniatures of the Gami-at-Tawarih. vol. 10, pts.1/2, 1975-1976. pp. 108-143, fig. 18.
  • Yuka Kadoi. Islamic Chinoiserie: The Art of Mongol Iran. Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art Edinburgh. p. 129, fig. 4.5.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.