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The Singer Su Hsiao-hsiao: Gallery Label - Current


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The 18th century Yang-chou artist, K'ang T'ao, is best known for his rather generic paintings of "immortals" and beautiful women. In this case, however, he rose above the norm and produced a beautiful, technically refined, sympathetic depiction of Su Hsiao-hsiao, a famous 5th century singing girl. She is shown sitting pensively on a large rock in a garden amid low clusters of frozen bamboo. The painting bears a 1746 poem by the painter, a colophon by the Hangchou poet-painter, Ch'ien Tu (1763-1844), dated 1813 and two colophons written by the great literatus, Juan Yuan (1764-1849) on consecutive days in 1843. All four poetic colophons carry literary allusions and draw from ancient poetry. Kang's short poem reads:

She is not grieving for autumn now, nor moved by spring.

The silken fan back in its box, a new one's in his hand.

As fragrant breezes bring contentment, the "metal wind" now fades.

In this world, can anyone plumb the truth of her heart?

The aging beauty, Hsiao-hsiao, is not saddened by seasonal change or frozen bamboo, but rather because, like a fan put back in its box when no longer needed, she has been put aside by her lover for a new woman. But seated here, the pleasant spring breezes begin to replace the chilling winds of the season of metal (autumn), as her pure heart begins to heal.

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Type: Commentary, Gallery Label - Current
Source: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Rights: Copyright Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Added to Site: March 10, 2009