Surrounded by Hundreds of peach trees, the lady is charming as the peach blossoms. Don’t tell those in the palace, because the pretty lady is trying to be herself. Drawn by Hongshou. for Proprieter Tianer.
Hongshou zhiyin (洪绶之印carved in intaglio); Zhanghou (章侯carved in relief).
Yuanleishi Cang (渊雷室藏carved in relief); once in Zhu Qizhan’s house (carved in relief); a blurry seal (carved in relief)
Chen Hongshou (1598—1652), courtesy name Zhanghou, literary name Laolian, also Laochi since Jiashen Year (1644 AD), and Huichi, Fuchi, Yunmen Monk and Jiupin Liantai zhuzhe (Host of Nine-Tiered Lotus Leaf Platform), native of Zhuji, Zhejiang Province. He wrote elegant calligraphy, and was adept at landscape painting and proficient in figure painting. He enjoyed equal popularity with Cui Zizhong, collectively “Chen in the South and Cui in the North”. The figures he painted pretend straight and tall, and wear in fine and smooth lines, which demonstrates the merits drawn from Li Gonglin’s and Zhao Mengfu’s works, and he colored his paintings by learning from Wu Daozi. An outstanding power and an upright aura overflow from Chen’s works, even more brilliant than those of Qiu Ying and Tang Yin. Chen also painted flowers, birds, grass and insects, all of which are fine works.
Lady With A Mirror by Chen Hongshou
This is a meticulous figure painting by Chen Hongshou in Ming Dynasty. The lady with a plump face and long thin eyes in the center of the picture looks slightly chubbier than others in the same period, and her tall coiled hair is decorated with peach blossoms and ornamental hairpins. The rendering technique is inherited from Tang Dynasty. The lady is holding a bronze-made, water-caltrop flower-shaped mirror in front of her chest, gently nodding to and staring at herself in the mirror, with a hint of sorrow over her face, as if something is preoccupying her. She is wearing an exceptionally high long skirt, thus the proportion of the figure seems to be twisted on purpose; while the dark front pieces and the accessories along the skirt hemline are added to visually balance the entire painting. Elements like the peach tree branch on the upper right corner and a few slopes and rocks at the bottom are there to highlight the main object and to adjust the overall layout of the painting. The colors are simple but elegant, with rocks colored and outlined in darker or lighter ink color and light crimson. The appropriate layout successfully highlights the main object. On the upper left corner, there are poems written in cursive, with vigorous and sophisticated strokes.
Chen Hongshou underwent not only change of dynasties, but also many setbacks in his own life. Therefore the figures he painted are mostly unadorned, miserable and sad. His figures are not stereotyped at all; instead, they are visually exaggerated and distorted, giving people a sense of reality. His figure paintings practice uniqueness, forming a school of Chen Hongshou himself in late Ming Dynasty, which is quite different from the aestheticism that other ancient Chinese pursued.
Chen Hongshou’s figure painting Lady With A Mirror features fine and restrained strokes, elegant and meaningful colors as well as slightly distorted and exaggerated figure images, which makes it elegant and outstanding. In the 1980s, it was identified as a National First-Class Collection by the calligraphy and painting appraisal seven-member group under the State Council, now displayed in Tsinghua University Art Museum.