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Anonymous (First half 16th century)
Anonymous (First half 16th century)

Mountain landscape with rising mist

Anonymous (First half 16th century)
Mountain landscape with rising mist
With an illegible seal
Hanging scroll; ink and light color on silk
45 x 15 ¾ in. (114.3 x 40 cm.)

Lot Essay

This painting lacks signature and seals but it reflects Korean ideals and taste initiated by the most original court painter of the early Joseon period, the great master An Kyon. The painting was probably one of a set of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, a theme celebrated in China from at least the twelfth century. The two rivers flow into Lake Dongting in the modern province of Hunan in southern China. The lush beauty of the landscape and its romantic aura as a place of retreat and seclusion inspired generations of artists and poets throughout East Asia. The Eight Views were popular in both painting and poetry in Korea by the fifteenth century. The revival of interest in the theme in Korea is attributed to the scholarly Prince Anpy'ong (1418-1453), a collector of Chinese paintings and major patron of the arts, who appears to have commissioned a handscroll of this subject from An Kyon, the preeminent court painter of the early Choson period. An Kyon's style was strongly influenced by the Chinese Northern Song monumental landscape tradition as transformed in the post-Yuan period. The Japanese invasions of the late 16th century devastated Korea and caused the loss of most early paintings. An Kyon's work survives in only a handful of examples, the most famous being his handscroll Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land, a masterpiece painted in 1447 and now preserved in Japan. There is an album of Eight Views attributed to An Kyon in the National Museum of Korea, Seoul, and recently two hanging scrolls from an original set of eight in the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been attributed to him, as well (see Hongnam Kim, "An Kyon and the Eight Views Tradition: An Assessment of Two Landscapes in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," in Arts of Korea [New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998], pp. 366-401 and pls. 83-85). At least fifteen early-Choson paintings on the Eight Views theme are known. In the case of a complete set of eight, the scrolls may be mounted on a folding screen. Dating from the mid-15th to the mid-16th century, many are products of the influential An Kyon school. The most important court and professional artists of the time emulated his style, and attributions to specific artists are still difficult to determine.
A sturdy, rustic earthen bridge crosses a shallow stream in the foreground, inviting the viewer to enter the landscape at the lower right corner, marked by an overhanging willow tree. The bridge connects the two opposite banks, anchoring the otherwise disconnected landscape elements. The path winds its way up the left side to a cluster of houses (perhaps a village) nestled among a grove of pine trees. Prominent at the right edge toward the center of the composition are large fishing boats moored at the shore. Moving up the mist-shrouded valley along the right edge of the painting, above the boats, we come to the tile-roofed, double-storied pavilion above the gate of a walled enclosure, perhaps the gate of a city wall. Here white blossoms are highlighted in the reddish glow of a sunset. High above, almost lost among the towering peaks in the far distance, is another double-storied gateway, the entrance to a mountain temple. The artist has supplied only limited narrative detail in the form of the bridge and fishing boats. Paintings associated with An Kyon are notably devoid of figures. The scene evokes two of the Eight Views, namely the sound of the evening bell from a mist-shrouded temple and fishing boats returning at sunset.

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