Handscroll, ink and color on paper
Overall: 27 x 271.3 cm (10 5/8 x 106 13/16 in.); Painting only: 21 x 60 cm (8 1/4 x 23 5/8 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1954.581
Wen Boren depicted the chilly autumn water with a fishnet pattern.
This handscroll depicts The Song of the Pipa, a poem by Bai Juyi 白居易 (772–846) written after the poet’s encounter with a pipa player on the Yangzi River. Expelled from her home city when her beauty and fame had faded, she played for the poet at night. Her musical performance and tragic life story resonated with Bai Juyi, who had just been demoted and exiled from life at court himself. The hazy, vast view and pale color tonalities of this painting illustrate these feelings of endless sadness, having lost one’s sense of purpose in life.
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