Catalogue 16

Zha Shibiao (1615-98)
Early Qing dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 97 x 28.5 in.

Zha Shibiao was born in Xiuning, Anhui province. After the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, he gave up his promising official career. He was known as a painter, calligrapher and connoisseur and was grouped with Hongren (1610-64, cat. 15) as one of the Four Masters of Anhui. Zha Shibiao's early and late works were the closest to Hongren's dry sparing brushwork. Zha Shibiao, who lived and worked in Yangzhou late in his career, helped set the stage for that city to become an important painting center in the eighteenth century.

Although it is not dated, this painting with its extensive use of washes is typical of the middle part of Zha Shibiaos painting career. He provides an extremely vertical format with tall trees and steep rock faces. He has signed the painting The Daoist of Plum Gully, Shibiao (Meihe daoren shibiao) with two seals reading Meihe and Zha erxuan. The inscribed poem is a pentasyllabic quatrain that can be translated:

A clear stream at the gully's mouth,

On the stone path I enter the cold forest.

It is late as I approach the front of the mountain,

The stream flows off into the distance.

A single scholar stands in the bottom right foreground gazing out over the water and up into the steep mountains. Perhaps he is on his way to the temple or house at the end of the path that follows along the waterfront.