Eight Princes on a Spring Excursion (八達春遊圖)
Zhao Yan (趙喦, first half of 10th c.), Five Dynasties (907-960)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 161.9 x 102 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
Figure painting also made notable advances in the Northern Song. In addition to following in the fine traditions of the Tang dynasty, a uniquely elegant form of composition and brushwork developed at the time. "Eight Princes on a Spring Excursion" shows eight noblemen on horseback outing, the figures and horses all with different expressions and in a variety of poses. Attention appears to be centered on the figure in green in the middle, and group interaction surrounding him is captured perfectly. To highlight the figures, the background of the painting has also been simplified and the space defined by the railing to create a contrast between solid and void. The fine rendering of the tree and rock along with the brightness of the figures’ clothing reveals an opulent style unique to the imperial clan of the time. Although the composition of "Eight Princes on a Spring Excursion" derives from the format of a horse and figure underneath a tree from the Tang dynasty, the level of refinement here far surpasses that found in the Tang or Five Dynasties period.