Literary Gathering (文會圖)
Zhao Ji (趙佶, 1082-1135), Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 184.4 x 123.9 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
"Literary Gathering" is related to the theme of illustrating the Eighteen Scholars in the Tang dynasty. Ever since Yan Liben (閻立本, ca.601-673) was ordered to paint "Illustrations of the Eighteen Scholars of the House of Qin (秦府十八學士圖)", it has become a subject for emulation by later generations of artists, who have done many versions through the ages. This work has poetic lines inscribed by Emperor Huizong and his minister Cai Jing (蔡京) on it, using an allusion to the past to point out an emphasis on the scholar class by the Song imperial house while serving as a visual symbol of the emperor ruling over gathered talents at his command. The entire work has been done with well-executed brushwork, and the lines are succinct yet strong. The faces of the figures are outlined carefully and harmoniously, their expressions being elegant and positions of the figures differentiated for an obvious sense of individuality. The leaves of the bamboo and trees were done in outlines using steady strokes and orchestrated with beautiful coloring. The background of trees, rocks, and grasses in fine and regulated brushwork reveals the exceptional skills of the artist and fully expresses the pure and elegant style pursued in Emperor Huizong's Painting Academy.