Garden of the Inept Administrator (拙政園)
Wen Zhengming (文徵明, 1470-1559), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
Album leaves, ink on paper, 26.4 x 27.3 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Garden of the Inept Administrator (Zhuozheng Yuan) was built on the site of an ancient temple in Suzhou by the censor Wang Xianchen (王獻臣, act. ca. 1493–1535). In 1527, after an unhappy stay in Beijing, the artist Wen Zhengming returned to Suzhou, where he was given a studio in the garden. In an album of 1535, Wen painted thirty-one views of the site, each accompanied by a poem and a descriptive note. Sixteen years later, at the age of eighty-one, he painted this second album of eight views. The garden still exists in Suzhou, but centuries of renovations make it difficult to identify Wen's scenes.
In these works Wen achieved the ideal integration of the three separate arts of poetry, calligraphy, and painting (the so-called three perfections). With characteristic restraint, he chose to use only ink, but, aided by the poems, the quiet and exquisite images easily evoke that magical, autumnal moment in the garden.