A RARE GU FAMILY EMBROIDERED SILK PANEL
A RARE GU FAMILY EMBROIDERED SILK PANEL

17TH-18TH CENTURY

Details
A RARE GU FAMILY EMBROIDERED SILK PANEL
17TH-18TH CENTURY
The golden-beige silk is finely embroidered with a scholar seated beside an attendant, whose face is turned towards another attendant holding the reins of a grazing horse. The whole is set in a landscape of grass and abstract clouds, in green, brown and pale cream threads picked out with blue, green and black paint. The upper section is inscribed with a hall mark, possibly reading Hua yu tang, a poetic inscription, which expresses the wish to study diligently, achieve a high score at the exam, and to serve at the high court, followed by two seals which read hu tou (tiger head) and Qing bi zhai (bright green studio).
38 ½ in. (97.8 cm.) x 17 in. (43.1 cm.) framed and glazed

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Michael Bass
Michael Bass

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Lot Essay

The Gu Family's embroideries were greatly admired by the leading artists of the day, as they reflected the subtleties of classic painting. Gu Mingshi passed the imperial examination in 1559 to become a civil official. He constructed a mansion at Songjiang (today Shanghai), and whilst excavating a pond for the new residence, a fragment of old stone inscribed with the characters luxiang chi, 'pond of fragrant dew', was found, which became the name of the mansion. The female members of the Gu Family were well-known for their artistic and skilled embroidery. The most famous was Han Ximeng, the wife of Gu Mingshi's second grandson. Han Ximeng spent several years embroidering reproductions of eight well-known paintings of the Song and Yuan periods. Her works were given the accolade of laudatory inscriptions by Dong Qichang, one of the most famous artist-calligraphers of the Ming dynasty. Han Ximeng signed her work Wuling xiushi, 'Master Embroiderer of Wuling', and even wrote a history of embroidery. Han Ximeng's daughter followed her mother and became an accomplished interpreter of classic painting in the medium of silk. Later, when the family fortunes declined, Gu Lanyu opened the commercial studio of the Gu Family embroidery at the Luxian Yuan.

The Gu Family revived earlier Song period embroidery techniques, but the school also refined new techniques of subtle shading and the use of exceptionally fine thread. The seals hu tou (tiger head) and Qing bi zhai (bright green studio) were often used in Gu Family embroideries.

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