Mandarin Ducks and Lotus

A work made of hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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

Date:

Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 1892

Artist:

Ren Yi [zi Bonian]
Chinese, 1840-1895

About this artwork

Ren Yi was among the most successful and influential among Chinese painters of the so-called Shanghai School. Arriving in Shanghai in 1857, he took the artistic name “bonian” (one-hundred years), claiming that it would take him a century to achieve success. However, by 1875 Ren Yi was the best-known painter in Shanghai. His highly sought-after bird-and-flower paintings initially followed the Song dynasty (960–1279) convention of applying rich color fields within outlines, producing decorative patterning with lifelike representation. This painting represents his mature, more spontaneous style that is characterized by looser brushwork, more ink washes, and greater tonal variation.

Although his inscription states that Ren Yi executed this work in the winter “with a frozen ink stone,” he clearly depicted an early summer scene. Four large lotus leaves, brushed with wet-ink washes, overpower a pair of young, delicate blossoms. The aquatic lotus emerges with pristine beauty from murky water and thereby carries enduring associations with Buddhist beliefs in purity and rebirth. Above the lotus, partially camouflaged by wind-swept reeds, swims a pair of mandarin ducks—traditional symbols of marital bliss and fidelity. Painted with sharp, quick brush strokes, this engaging depiction of the young couple suggests an intimacy appropriate for lifelong partners.

Currently Off View

Asian Art

Artist

Ren Yi

Title

Mandarin Ducks and Lotus

Origin

China

Date

1840–1895

Medium

Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper

Dimensions

149.8 × 40 cm (58 15/16 × 15 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Florence Ayscough and Harley Farnsworth MacNair Collection

Reference Number

1943.137

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 .

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