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Hyacinth Beans and Dragonflies

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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 c.)

Dimensions: height: 33.4 cm, width: 24.5 cm

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

Two dragonflies are fluttering above a hyachinth bean plant. Although the design is simple, the vibrancy of the dragonflies and the stillness of the plant complement each other well in presenting harmonious natural scenery. The embroidery combines a variety of stitch types. To create the gradual change of colors, the blossoms of the bean are embroidered with "batched stitch" (tao zhen). Outlined with "rolling stitch" (gun zhen), the  hyachinth beans have plump seeds inside. The plumpness is made possible by an embroidery technique that pads the designated patterns with soft material before they are decorated with embroidery. The wings of the dragonflies are rendered with "ice-crackle stitch"(bingwen zhen), which precisely suggests the gauze-like thinness of the wings. On the left half of the folio opposite the embroidery, the influential connoisseur and painting master Dong Qichang (1555-1636) inscribed a colophon in ink.

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