Plum Blossoms

Artist: Jin Nong (1687-1763)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1760
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 130.2 x 28.2 cm (51 1/4 x 11 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
Provenance research underway.

The branches of a plum tree jut vertically into space, dotted with black patches of lichen and spangled with pale gray and delicate pink blossoms. Jin Nong was a leading calligrapher and painter of his times and is often included among a group of highly individualized artists known as the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, after the wealthy commercial city in Jiangsu Province where they made their living. Echoing the thrust of the branches, the lengthy inscription at upper left is written in Jin's usual blockish style of calligraphy, a blend of standard script and clerical script, which he derived in part from the study of ancient stone-carved texts from the Han dynasty (206 b.c.e.-220 c.e.). Jin Nong opens his inscription with three lines from a poem he had written five years earlier for a friend who had recently taken a new concubine. In Chinese literature, plum blossoms have a long association with feminine beauty and often appear in strongly sensual or romantic contexts. Highly satisfied with these lines, Jin inscribed them again on this work, which he painted for another friend. According to his inscription, he used actual eyebrow darkener and rouge for his colors. The text is dated January 20, a time when the flowers of the winter-blooming plum tree are usually at their peak.

Joseph Chang, Associate Curator of Chinese Art
with translations by Stephen D. Allee, Research Specialist
From an exhibition label for "Three Friends of Winter: Pine, Plum and Bamboo in Chinese Painting" (8/12/2001 - 2/3/2002) 

Published References
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 252.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 72, vol. 1: p. 170.
  • Contesting the Meanings of Modern Portraiture. Taiwan. p. 179.
  • Kathleen Yang. Through a Chinese Connoisseur's Eye: Private Notes of C.C. Wang. Beijing. p.340, fig.124.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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