Fisherman's Lodge at Mount Xisai

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Fisherman's Lodge at Mount Xisai (西塞漁舍圖)

Li Jie (李結, ca.1124-1191), Song Dynasty (960-1279)

Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 40.6 x 136.5 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

       In this imaginary depiction of his retirement retreat the scholar-official Li Jie presents an image of his future home in a self-consciously primitive manner. The archaic, maplike image—composed of frontal, schematically rendered mountains and trees, an archaic "blue-and-green" color scheme, an uptilted ground plane, and sticklike architecture-directly recalls an early paradigm of the scholarly retreat: the Wangchuan Villa of the Tang poet-painter Wang Wei (王維, 699–759).

       Li Jie retired to Mount Xisai in 1184 after an illustrious official career but executed this work about 1170 in anticipation of his retirement, which did not occur until 1184. It was in 1170 that Li also began to solicit colophons to his painting from some of the leading figures of his day, including the statesman and poet Fan Chengda (1126–1193). The resulting combination of painting and poems forms a unique record of Southern Song scholarly collaboration in the creation of a pictorial and literary work that celebrates the ideal of retirement-a phenomenon that anticipates by nearly a century similar artistic collaborations among scholars living under the Mongol Yuan dynasty.