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Anonymous Korean (16th century)

“Squirrels and Grapevines”

Hanging scroll, ink on paper
91 x 38 cm. (35 7/8 x 15 in.)

(see write up below)

Two squirrels have ascended the grapevine in search of the sweet taste of the ripe fruit. The scene is treated very abstractly, with the vine portrayed with sharp bends that are more calligraphic than naturalistic in nature. Tendrils are treated in a similar fashion, appearing as formal flourishes of the brush rather suggesting the actual appearance of such in reality. Ink values too were varied for visual impact rather than conforming to what the scene would have looked like in nature.

This emphasis of formal values over those of verisimilitude can be found in Chinese painting (fig. 1) but the result in that case remains far closer to nature than does the present painting. These characteristics lead to the conclusion that the present painting is Korean, based on a Chinese prototype but somewhat later in date, perhaps during the sixteenth century.


Fig. 1. Yueh Cheng (1418-1473): “Squirrels and Grapes” 1450, after Eight Dynasties of Chinese Painting, Cleveland, cat 143, p. 168.

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