In the foreground of this dynamic composition, arranged along a diagonal axis and related to the “one-corner” compositions of Song academic painters, a scholar attended by three servants arrives at the gate of a riverside villa. A large jug of wine accompanies him along with trays of what one assumes are the proper accompaniments to a bout of drinking and conviviality. Immediately above, another servant stands at the half-opened gate, inviting the guest to ascend the path beyond. Another servant appears in the house above while three more attend the scholar seated in the viewing pavilion that extends out over the open expanse of the river or lake. A ding-shaped incense burner and wine cups stand on the lacquered stand to the right, their particular delights awaiting the arrival of the friend disembarking below. The whole is a perfect visual evocation of the ideal of scholarly friendship, the sharing of wine and elevated conversation in a setting far removed from the hustle and bustle of the dusty commercial world.
Although the work is not signed, the style bears witness to its creation during the earlier 17th, the late Ming era, when such images were common in the works of such Suzhou professional artists as Sheng Maoye (fig. 1)—note the heavy dottings and spikey trees combined with interior texture strokes on earthen forms. Incorporating some of the pictorial devices of 16th century masters of the Zhe school, these painters emulated the brushwork of Suzhou painters of the Wu school to bring those traditions to a striking climax during the early 17th century.
*Note on the Suiu Collection: Probably amassed by ItŌ Miyoji (1857-1934), a Meiji period statesman, cabinet minister and newspaper publisher (his conservative pro-government paper, predecessor of today’s Mainichi Shimbun), a collector who specialized in swords, sold in two auctions after his death, in 1936 and 1937, the present painting sold at the 1935 auction.
Fig. 1. Sheng Maoye: “Waterfall on Mount Lu,” University Art Museum, Berkeley. after James Cahill, ed.: The Restless Landscape, Berkeley, 1971, cat. 12.