image of woman rising out of a body of water, wearing a billowing garment and surrounded by waves; 8 men on shore observe woman, with 10 other men further from shore; image followed by panel of text

Nymph of the Luo River, 1591

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Gift of Ruth and Bruce Daytonexpand_more  2001.70.5

The classical narrative poem “Nymph of the Luo River,” written by Cao Zhi (192–232 CE), is the subject of this elegantly brushed handscroll. The story recounts an unsuccessful love affair between a poet and a river goddess. The verse, one of the standards of Chinese literature, became a favorite subject of painters. Attached to the painted portion of this scroll is a transcription of the “Nymph of the Luo River” by the late-Ming calligrapher Gu Mengyu, dated 1654.

The painting is executed in the “fine-line” technique called baimiao. Although the style demands extraordinary brush control, Wang alternated areas of dry, textured brushwork with even, wirelike lines to add a sense of spontaneity and liveliness to the composition. Only a few paintings by Wang Shanggong reside in Western collections.

Details
Title
Nymph of the Luo River
Artist Life
active 16th century
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2001.70.5
Curator Approved

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image of woman rising out of a body of water, wearing a billowing garment and surrounded by waves; 8 men on shore observe woman, with 10 other men further from shore; image followed by panel of text