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  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Ink Plum Blossoms
    Fan painting - Ink Plum Blossoms by Tang Yifen (1778-1853)

    Plum blossoms with inscription. Tang Yifen is very well known, and a sort of Renaissance man in Chinese terms. He held an inherited military post, traveled widely, had interests in astronomy, geography, music, poetry, and, of course, painting and calligraphy. He died in 1853 when the Taiping rebels stormed the city of Nanjing where he lived out the last decades of his life, and was considered a martyr to the cause of the Qing government. This painting is of prunus blossoms, with an inscription in the artist's distinctive calligraphy. A single branch rises from the bottom edge of the fan and the tip of one slender twig just touches the top, another the right border. The date of 1803 would make this one of the very earliest works from the artist's hand. It is a fine painting, and the compositional decision to have the flowers take up only a small percentage of the available space contributes to the sense of their delicacy and spatial isolation. One can almost catch the faint scent of the blossoms in the air. The history of the subject and its changes over time have been recorded by Maggie Bickord.