Skip to Content
Today Open today 11–8

Tree Peonies in Full Bloom

A work made of hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk.

Image actions

  • A work made of hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk.


Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1911


Artist unknown (Chinese, early 20th century)
Attributed in inscription to the “imperial brush”

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


China (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk


Artist’s inscription: Xuantong [reign period], xinhai [1911], 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)


131 × 52.1 cm (51 9/16 × 20 1/2 in.); Including mount and knobs: 284.8 × 83.2 cm (112 1/8 × 32 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. William J. Calhoun

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions