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The Quail

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Period: Chongzhen reign (1628-1644), Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Medium: Embroidery of the Gu family
Format: album leaf

Artist(s): Han Ximeng (17th century)

Dimensions: height: 33.4 cm, width: 24.5 cm

fourth in an album of eight leaves, Masterpieces of Song and Yuan Dynasties 

A plump quail is looking for food on the hillside where red-fruit plants grow. Feather stitches (shimao zhen) vividly present the varied quality of the soft feathers on the bird's back, chest, and stomach, making one want to reach out to touch them. The feet are rendered with pin stitches (ding zhen), which precisely interpret the joints of the claw. The coloration of the whole design is based on the quail's brown feathers, with touches of green leaves and red fruit as highlights for balance. Although basing the design of the embroidery on an existing painting, lady Han Ximeng exercised her extraordinary understanding of the quail in terms of its appearance and colors, which contributes to both verisimilitude and artistry. On the left leaf of the folio, the influential Ming dynasty connoisseur and painting master Dong Qichang (1555-1636) wrote a colophon in ink.

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