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Birds, Insects and Turtles

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Period: Five Dynasties (907-960)
Medium: ink and color on silk
Format: handscroll

Date: 41.5 × 70.8 cm
Artist(s): Huang Quan (act. 10th c.)

This handscroll is an important work of Huang Quan handed down to posterity. With fine lines and bright colors, twenty-four insects, birds and tortoises are outlined and then colored in the small silk painting. All these animals are characterized by exact shapes and distinctive features: standing, flying or gliding, the birds with various bearings are lively portrayed; though as tiny as beans, some insects are so minutely delineated that their feelers, claws and transparent wings are lifelike; the two tortoises drawn from the angle of upper right and with exact perspectives display the painter's superb modeling skills and consummate painting techniques.   
  The twenty-four animals are distributed evenly in the painting and no connection or theme exists among them. On the lower left corner, the five small characters translated as "for my son Jubao to study" (Fuzii Jubao xi) reveal that animals sketched from life was materials collected by the painter for his artistic creation and was also used as draft for his son to copy from during painting practice. From this draft, we could get a glimpse of the exquisite and vivid feature of Huang Quan's works and imagine the appealing charm of his other works. As Huang Quan had been carefully observing and sketching the nature and life, his painting skills improved gradually. Eventually, he won great success and became the originator of an influential flower-and-bird painting school.

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