Couplet in cursive script


Artist: Chen Hongshou 陳洪綬 (1598-1652)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1645-1652
Ink on paper
H x W (image [a]): 163.7 x 32.4 cm (64 7/16 x 12 3/4 in) H x W (image [b]): 164.1 x 32.3 cm (64 5/8 x 12 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls

China, poems, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Wang Nanping 1924-1985


Best known for his strongly individualistic style of figure painting, Chen Hongshou was also famous as a fine calligrapher. With the Manchu defeat of Ming loyalist forces at Nanjing in 1645, he entered the Buddhist priesthood, changed his name, and fled for safety into the mountains. Judging from his signature, Chen Hongshou created this pair of scrolls after 1645.

Instead of writing same-size characters in even spaces and matching the two scrolls neatly, as traditionally done, Chen started the right scroll with elongated, smaller characters, moved to larger and wider characters in the middle passage, and ended the final character with a long vertical stroke. He followed the same general formula in the scroll at left, but by spacing the characters differently, he created a dynamic, shifting visual balance between the two scrolls. Heavy dark strokes contrast with light smoky ones, and the brush speed alternates between slow and swift. Although he was writing large characters, Chen Hongshou used a fairly small brush in which the ink was soon exhausted, producing white streaks. His poetic couplet may be rendered:

"I have painted pictures of shallow water under light mist,
And written verses of faint clouds over the distant peaks."

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum