About this artwork
This boldly decorative painting is a significant document of Chinese-American relations. On February 17, 1913, the Empress Dowager Longyu (1868-1913) requested that it be delivered to the carriage of Mr. and Mrs. William C. Calhoun as they departed the imperial palace in Beijing. Mr. Calhoun, a Chicago attorney, had served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary (American Ambassador) to China since 1909 and witnessed the fall of the Qing dynasty to a provisional republican government, ending China’s 2000 year-old imperial system. Prince Puyi (1906-67) had ruled for three years as the Xuantong emperor, under control of his father, Prince Pu Lun, and his foster mother, Longyu. Exactly one year before the Calhouns’ farewell —on February 17, 1912—his parents authorized the young boy to abdicate his throne.
The inscription to the left of the peonies and the calligraphy on the mounting above are both signed by Lu Runxiang (1841-1915), a brilliant Chinese scholar. The large seal above the flowers belongs to Longyu; the brief inscription to the right of this seal, dated 1911, describes this painting as a work of the "imperial brush." Yet the painter of these flowers remains unknown. In 1911, Emperor Xuantong would have been five or six years old, making his authorship highly unlikely.
- Currently Off View
- Arts of Asia
- Longyu, Empress Dowager of China
- Tree Peonies in Full Bloom
- Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk
- Artist’s inscription: Xuantong [reign period], xinhai , first month, first ten-day period, [a work of the] imperial brush. Colophons by Lu Runxiang (陸潤庠) (E.Park, 1989) Seals: Tiancheng dian, relief, square. Yongsui duofu, intaglio, square. Longyu huangtaihou zhi bao, relief, large square. (E, Park 1989) Poem by Lu Runxiang on the painting: Benevolence and harmony belong to divine work, Deep colored flowers are brought together. Under the jade tablet with small characters, thousand-petalled yellow, purple, and red peonies. Respectfully inscribed by your servant Lu Runxiang(1840-1914) (trans. Youenhee Kho, 2008)
- 51 9/16 × 20 1/2 in.
- Gift of Mrs. William J. Calhoun