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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Culture: Chinese
Title: Plum and Magpies
Date: 18th century
Medium: Hanging scroll: ink on silk
Dimensions: 20 x 62 inches (50.8 x 157.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Alice and Martie Young
Object Number: 2000.161
Label Text: Shen Quan, also known as Shen Nanping, was a Jiangsu artist who specialized in bird-and-flower painting. In 1731 he was invited by the Japanese emperor to set up a studio in Nagasaki. Shen Quan arrived along with three of his students, and lived comfortably as an honored guest there for several years. His style of painting, which employed skillful ink outlines and washes with beautifully applied colors, was hailed as a refreshing change from the heaviness of the Kano style that had so long dominated painting traditions in Japan. Although he eventually returned to China, Shen's style influenced numerous Japanese painters and most of his works survive today in Japanese collections.

A favorite subject for the New Year, the plum tree is the first to bloom in early spring, sometimes when snow is still on the ground. It symbolizes perseverance for its ability to withstand the harsh cold of winter to produce delicate flowers. Magpies are believed to bring joy. A picture of a pair of magpies in a plum tree would also make an appropriate wedding gift, representing wishes for marital happiness.


NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.