(Chinese, c. 1450-c. 1536)
Handscroll, ink and light color on paper
Overall: 31.9 x 244.5 cm (12 9/16 x 96 1/4 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1964.94
This painting demonstrates Zhou Chen’s masterful skill in rendering impoverished people from his memories of figures in the street. It also bears an empathetic inscription to stir awareness of the poverty and suffering of the wretched souls.
Famine, natural disasters, rapidly expanding urbanization, and population growth may have increased the visibility and number of beggars, social outcasts, and street entertainers during the artist’s lifetime, something he mentions in the painting’s inscription.
This painting may depict a typical scene at the end of the lunar year, when a city’s less fortunate dressed up like ghosts and demons and performed exorcism dances in the streets to drive out threatening malevolent forces for a fresh start to the new year.
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