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Squirrel and Grapes

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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

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

From the lower left corner, two curly coarse vines twisting together grow from a hillside. A fluffy squirrel is climbing up to reach the bunch of grapes dangling from the top of the vine. The creative design presents a transient view in autumn. The little squirrel, with his bright and piercing eyes, clings to the vine and stretches for the fruit. The design reveals that lady Han Ximeng has a detailed observation of life and consummate skill in embroidery. Tiny, thin stitches accumulate for the squirrel's bushy tail. The grapes are romantically interpreted in blue. Threads of dark and pale blue, grey, and white are sewn together to indicate the different degrees of ripeness. The holes made by worms and the withered yellow edges on one of the leaves augment the verisimilitude. The artwork has bright and contrasting colors, giving the viewer a strong impression at first glance. On the left hand half of the folio, the embroidery is accompanied by a laudatory verse by the influential Ming dynasty connoisseur and painting master Dong Qichang (1555-1636).

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