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Mynah and Lotus 鷯哥荷花圖

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.


Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 1885


Ren Yi (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 work represents his mature, more spontaneous style that is characterized by looser brushwork, more ink washes, and greater tonal variation.

The mynah bird, known for its perfect imitation of the human voice, was a favorite subject of the influential 17th-century painter Zhu Da (Bada Shanren). Known for his highly individualistic style, Zhu Da was particularly influential among Shanghai painters. The black form of the mynah was ideal for the expressive brushwork known as xieyi (“sketch conceptualism”); and for Zhu Da, the mynah was imbued with a cryptic, highly personal symbolic power. It is unclear whether Ren Yi consciously accessed Zhu Da’s symbolic usage of the bird as a rebuke of Chinese society in this painting. However, as indicated in the inscription, which states that the painting was a gift for a friend and antique shop owner, Ren Yi consciously “imitated” Zhu Da’s style as a tribute to the artist.


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Arts of Asia


Ren Yi


Mynah and Lotus 鷯哥荷花圖


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.

Made 1885


Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper


125.7 × 50.5 cm (49 1/4 × 19 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Florence Ayscough and Harley Farnsworth MacNair

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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