Yang Guifei Mounting a Horse /Yang Kuei-Fei Mounting Her Horse, Ch’ien, Hsüan (Qian Xuan), Handscroll, approximately ca. 1235-1300. Ink and color on paper, China. Freer Gallery of Art. Image sources: Artstor, Wikipedia, Freer Gallery. 

Qian Xuan was foremost among the group of artists who in the early years of the Yuan dynasty revived ancient styles and fused them with their own innovations to create a new and viable artistic vocabulary. In subject matter, this painting is an obvious reference to the past. The Tang dynasty emperor Minghuang (reigned 713-756), seated astride a horse, is watching his favorite concubine, Yang Guifei being helped onto her saddle by maid-servants and attendants. Qian Xuan’s use of precise outline and flat color, as well as his arrangement of the figures against a blank background, reflect his awareness of the achievements of Tang dynasty artists. But a new sense of detached restraint which pervades the painting is typical of Qian Xuan’s work and characteristic of Yuan dynasty archaism in general.

There is another version of this scroll in the Shanghai Museum.

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