The focal point of the composition is a solitary figure seated on the bank of a lotus-covered river, a servant standing in readiness behind him. In the foreground appear two other figures in association with a riverside pavilion shaded by groves of bamboo. A bridge in the far ground mirrors the more complex structure in the foreground and provides the narrative horizon above which rise only bamboo and mountains. The elegant style of presentation associates the artist with such Suchou masters as Chang Hung (1577-1652 or later) and Li Shih-ta, with both of whom he was surely acquainted.
Ch’in Shih, tzu Tsun-i, was from Suchou in Kiangsu province, known for his landscapes characterized, as here, by classically elegant brushwork. Although his birth and death dates are not recorded in standard sources, his extant paintings indicate a period of activity at least from 1597 to 1620. An undated ‘Spring Ferry between Willow-lined Banks’ (fig. 1) suggests that Ch’in was also influenced by the styles of Shen Chou (1427-1509) and Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559), the progenitors of the Suchou style of landscape painting.
Fig. 1. Ch’in Shih: ‘Spring Ferry between Willow-lined Banks,’ after Chung-kuo Ku-tai Shu-hua T’u-mu, Beijing, 1990, vol. 8, no. 1-04, p. 103.