The Private Realm of Literati

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The leisure activities of the literati class are well-represented in paintings of the Song and Yuan periods; one of the most common of these being the gathering of officials and others of literary talent in a garden setting for the pleasures of reading, composing poetry, and appreciating works of art and antiquities.



Zhou Wenju (Southern Tang), A Literary Garden                               source

Figure painting during the Song carried on the achievements of Tang representations of the human subject, which had reached a high level of skill in the portrayal of individual psychologies and the nuances of the given narrative.  


Below is a superb example of figure painting from the early Song period, The Night Revels of the Minister Han Xizai.  As you look at the whole painting provided in two sections below, try to determine what kind of story or event is being portrayed.  Figures that appear to be repeated throughout the length of the scroll represent the same figure in different scenes of the narrative.  As with all handscrolls, the story progresses sequentially from the right end of the painting, and would be viewed only in sections.  


Where do you think these breaks might logically occur?  How does the artist make use of furniture to organize the space of the picture?  


Section 1 (begin viewing from the right)

Section 2

Gu Hongzhong (active 943-960), The Night Revels of Minister Han Xizai                                       source

For a closer view...


Move on to Painting as a Fine Art