25 May 2009
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Monkeys and Peaches
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
104.8 x 34.5 cm. (41 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated eighth month, gengchen year (1940)
Qi Baishis pictures often hold a certain whimsical quality in their simple depiction of forms. In the present lot, Qi Baishi uses traditional Chinese imagery to create a painting complex in meaning while maintaining his distinct, impressionable directness, and his ability to convey the essence of forms and ideas.
In this instance, an extremely rare white-haired monkey stands under a peach tree holding the fruit in hand, while her baby shyly hides behind her. This lively image bears multiple symbolic meanings: the peach traditionally represents immortality and the monkey represents success in office. In Daoist mythology, Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West, was said to have presented a peach of immortality, which grows only once every 3,000 years, to Emperor Wu of Han.
The pronunciations of the word monkey and official are the same in Chinese; therefore it can be used as a pun to imply the success in office and the promotion of ranks. The white-haired monkey is a genetic mutation which happens once every hundred-thousandth birth and is considered to be an exceptionally auspicious symbol. While Qi Baishi rarely used monkeys as the subject of his paintings, the white-haired monkey is an even rarer example among his works, making the present lot an exceptional piece.
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The Collected Works of Qi Baishi 5, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 1996, p. 96, pl. 91, appendix 12.
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