Album leaf mounted as a hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Painting: 23.8 x 24.5 cm (9 3/8 x 9 5/8 in.); Overall: 117 x 41.7 cm (46 1/16 x 16 7/16 in.)
The Kelvin Smith Collection, given by Mrs. Kelvin Smith 1985.371
The seal at the upper left is an official Yuan dynasty seal used on paintings and calligraphy in the imperial collection.
A male redstart, a type of small bird, sits hunched on the branch of a flowering plum tree in early spring. The bird’s plumage is rendered in fine detail with a great naturalistic sense, characteristic of Southern Song court painting. While redstarts tend to spend the winter in warmer climates, they may have been seen during the mild winters in China’s southeast in Hangzhou, the seat of the former imperial painting academy where this album leaf was presumably produced. The small square painting must have once been part of an album. When collected in Japan, it was mounted as a hanging scroll, presumably to fit it in an alcove to be enjoyed during the tea ceremony.
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