woman seated on rocks, wearing long vest-like garment in grey with stylized floral designs and a skirt with design of cranes in octagons; woman wears peal hoop earring; bamboo at left and right; text at top

The Singer Su Xiaoxiao, 1746

expand_more

The Hangzhou artist Kang Tao (active 1700s) rarely painted actual individuals; he more often produced images of Daoist immortals and earthly beauties. In this case, however, he rose above the norm and produced a beautiful, technically refined, sympathetic depiction of Su Xiaoxiao, a famous singer who lived around 400–500 CE. She is shown sitting pensively in a garden, on a large rock amid low clusters of frozen bamboo. The painting bears a 1746 poem by the painter, a colophon by the poet-painter, Qian Du (1763–1844) dated 1813, and two colophons by the great literatus Ruan Yuan (1764–1849), written on consecutive days in 1843. All four poetic colophons carry literary allusions and draw from ancient poetry. Kang’s short poem reads:

She is not grieving for autumn now, nor moved by spring.
The silken fan back in its box, a new one’s in his hand.
As fragrant breezes bring contentment, the “metal wind” now fades.
In this world, can anyone plumb the truth of her heart'

The poem describes Xiaoxiao as an aging beauty who is saddened not by seasonal change or frozen bamboo, but rather because, like a fan put back in its box when no longer needed, she has been put aside by her lover for a new and younger woman. But seated here, she notices that the pleasant spring breezes have begun to replace the chilling winds of the season of metal (autumn), and her pure heart begins to heal.

Details
Title
The Singer Su Xiaoxiao
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2006.44.3
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.

woman seated on rocks, wearing long vest-like garment in grey with stylized floral designs and a skirt with design of cranes in octagons; woman wears peal hoop earring; bamboo at left and right; text at top