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

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Culture: Chinese
Title: One Hundred Butterflies
Date: 1723
Medium: Handscroll: ink and colors on silk
Dimensions: Image: 10 3/4 x 184 3/8 inches (27.3 x 468.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Daisy Yen Wu in memory of Yen Hsiao-fang and Yen Tse-king
Object Number: 79.060.004
Label Text: Ma Quan, who was born into a family of artists in Changshu, Jiangsu province, worked as a professional painter and even taught students outside of her own family. She followed in the footsteps of her father, Ma Yuanyu (1669–1722), renowned for plant-and-insect paintings and himself a student of the master plant-and-insect painter Yun Shouping (1633–1690). Ma Quan and her husband, Gong Kehe, also a calligrapher and painter, moved to Beijing to support themselves by their art; after he died, she returned to Changshu.

Ma Quan excelled in painting butterflies and flowers; her paintings combine close observation of nature with an admiration for Song dynasty academic traditions. Here she emphasizes the quick, graceful movements of the butterflies in flight in a playful manner that departs from the rather staid renditions of Song painting. The overall subject of butterflies in a flower garden, along with this long handscroll’s individual vignettes and details, communicates auspicious wishes. One hundred butterflies represent the saying, “May the hundred blessings settle here (baifu pianzhen). Butterflies flitting among flowers equates to butterflies in love with flowers (dielianhua), a design popular for weddings and marriage, because it symbolizes joy, love, and good fortune. The many mating pairs of butterflies throughout the painting further convey these sentiments.

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.