Herbaceous Peony



Yun Shouping 惲壽平

(Chinese, 1633–1690)
Painting: 118.7 x 71.8 cm (46 3/4 x 28 1/4 in.); Overall with knobs: 226 x 84.4 cm (89 x 33 1/4 in.)
Location: not on view
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Did You Know?

In East Asian art, peonies traditionally symbolize prosperity and wealth.


Yun Shouping came from Piling (modern Changzhou), Jiangsu province, a center of floral, plant, and insect painting. He had joined the anti-Manchu resistance, was briefly imprisoned, and witnessed the death of family members in 1644.

Like other artists, Yun Shouping expressed his Ming loyalism in coded pictures. The peony, king of flowers, and a spring garden motif developed new meaning during the Qing dynasty. The inscription indicates that Yun turns the flower into a motif representing the glorious past. The herbaceous peonies here appear somewhat withered and pale, with faint reddish veins running through its broken branches, perhaps a coded message.

The inscription reads,
An old painting by an anonymous painter of the Northern Song Dynasty has five varieties of flowers painted in the boneless manner. Its colors are so beguiling and beautiful, that even after several hundred years its lead pigments are like new. The skill with which the ink and colors were applied and the subtlety of its composition find no equal among modern followers.
Herbaceous Peony

Herbaceous Peony


Yun Shouping

(Chinese, 1633–1690)
China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

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