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Pink and White Lotus, 14th century


The grandeur of this depiction of lotus blossoms, leaves, and seed pods is eloquent testimony to the considerable position accorded the genre of flower painting in China. Produced for the court, flower paintings far exceeded other subjects—figures, Buddhist subjects, and landscapes—that are recorded in imperial collections. Practiced since the tenth century, the genre of flower painting reached its apogee in the late Song and Yuan dynasties.

This composition depicts the lotus at a moment just past its peak, when the blossoms are fully opened and some petals have begun to fall. The flowers retain their full colors, showing a gentle gradation of deep pink to nearly transparent lighter shades and white. The large, bowl-shaped leaves with lobed and curled edges are turned up to reveal a lighter shade of green on the underside. While the blossoms successfully convey lifelike qualities, the lotus in Asian art is never merely decorative but is a motif that has deep religious meaning. In Buddhism, the muddy pond in which the lotus grows represents the mundane world; the beautiful blossoms, which rise on stems high out of the water, represent the purity of salvation and rebirth in a heavenly paradise. Large-scale compositions of lotus were usually produced in pairs to decorate Buddhist temples or palace halls.


(Alice Boney, New York);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1984.

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