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Anonymous Chinese (19th century)

“Butterflies in Garden” 蝴蝶花园图

Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
90.5 x 36.0 cm. (35 3/8 x 14 1/4 in.)

Sakamoto Yuhei, Tokyo

Butterflies of all sizes, large and small, flit about two garden rocks and the surrounding foliage. The rocks are fantastic, eccentric, and magical with their numerous perforations rendering them light and even frail. Flowering plants around the rocks help to define the ground plane and contribute their charm to the scene as well as joining to support the symbolic import of the butterflies. The butterfly carries connotations that range from happiness or joy to abundant blessings to wishes for longevity to sexual bliss, and the creature itself is of course most lovely to behold. The subject was quite popular during the later Qing dynasty and appears as a motif in all media, including paintings such as the present, which although unsigned, was created by a painter of great technical ability and artistic sensitivity.

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