Enjoying the Wilderness in an Autumn Grove (秋林野興)
Ni Zan (倪瓚, 1301-1374), Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 98.1 x 68.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until the early 1340s, Ni Zan lived the life of a wealthy dilettante, spending his time among the precious books, antiques, and flowers of his Pure and Secluded Pavilion. His painting style at the time, as seen here, exhibits a studied archaism in which his interest in descriptive detail is at odds with his self-conscious use of calligraphic "hemp fiber" brushstrokes in the manner of tenth-century masters. Ni's gentleman seated in a rustic pavilion is shorthand for the scholar in his studio. His florid poem exhibits a similarly precious quality of one entirely absorbed in his immediate surroundings. It reads, in part:
In the bright days, bamboo wave in the breeze;
In the dark nights, parasols of fir hold up the moon.
Burning incense I use [a censer in the form of] a gilded duck;
Gathering scattered petals, I place them inside my pillow.
(trans. Wen Fong)