Presenting Lichee Fruit on a Carved Ice Platter, in the style of Tang YinArtist(s)Gai Qi (Kai Ch'i)Object Creation Datecirca 1900Medium & Supporthanging scroll, ink and color on silkDimensions
5 ft. 5 1/8 in. x 15 9/16 in. (165.26 x 39.4 cm)Credit LineMuseum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection FundLabel copy
Attributed to Gai Qi
Presenting Lichee Fruit on a Carved Ice Platter (CENTER)
Qing dynasty (1644–1912)
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, 1982/2.51
These three works are paintings of meiren (“beautiful women”) a genre of painting that first appeared during the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and was produced by low- status professional painters, rather than by the scholarly elite. Such paintings frequently depict elaborately dressed women reading in studies, surrounded by books and scrolls. It is likely that they are courtesans, who received extensive training in the arts, literature, music, and calligraphy, and were considered both icons of femininity and the intellectual equals of high-ranking men. In Lady in Her Study with Attendants the woman is brought books, scrolls, and a pipa, or pear-shaped lute, evidence of her literary and musical talents. The two other paintings, probably later copies of Gai Qi’s, also emphasize the women’s intellect. The lichee associates the women with historical beauties, specifically the celebrated imperial consort Yang Guifei, who was famously fond of this fruit.
The artist Gai Qi was from a family of Muslim origin that lived in southeastern China, near the port city of Shanghai. A professional painter living entirely on his art, he is best known for delicately rendered images of beautiful women. This garden scene of two young maids serving their mistress a platter of lichee fruit refers to the legendary incident in which when lichees were presented to Yang Guifei (719-756), the favorite consort of the Minghuang Emperor (r. 712–756) during the Tang dynasty. Lichees grow only in southern China, and the fruit was rushed north on horseback each summer to please the extravagant taste of Yang Guifei and her court ladies. One year when celebrating Yang’s birthday, the Emperor named his musical composition The Fragrance of Lichee. After Yang was killed in a riot, the annual arrival of the fruit reminded the emperor of his lost love and caused him great sorrow. This bittersweet motif is often found in Chinese literature and painting.Physical Description
Vertically long image. Ink on silk. Multiple figures gathered near a table. Vegetation in the lower left.Primary Object Classification Painting Primary Object Typehanging scrollAdditional Object Classification(s)PaintingCollection AreaAsianRights
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costume (mode of fashion)
fruit (plant components)
women (female humans)