Wen Zhengming was one of the most celebrated calligraphers and painters during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). His inscription, gracefully written in small characters on the upper left corner, reveals Wen’s emotional mood at that moment of creation.

"In the fifteenth day of the fifth month, the year of xinhai [1551], [I], Zhengming, playfully write this Old Trees by a Wintry Brook at eighty-two [sui]."

How should we understand a wintery landscape painted in the middle of spring? Was it simply inspired by a surprisingly late spring snow? Or can it be that the “wintery” brook reflects the octogenarian’s feelings about aging and his inevitable, approaching mortality? The junipers’ gnarled forms are a poignant symbol of aging and suffering, yet the ink-dot leaves on some branches suggest that the trees are still alive, awaiting the warmth of spring.

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  • Title: Old Trees by a Wintry Brook
  • Creator: Wen Zhengming (Chinese, 1470-1559)
  • Date Created: 1551
  • Physical Dimensions: Image: 114.3 x 47 cm (45 x 18 1/2 in.)
  • Provenance: Mou Yueqi 繆曰芑 [18th century], Hiyoshi collection, Japan, (Jean-Pierre Dubosc [1904–1988], Paris, France, sold to Mr. and Mrs. A. Dean Perry), A. [Albert] Dean Perry [1909-1987] and Helen Wade Greene Perry [1911-1996], Cleveland, OH, bequest to the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1997.102
  • Medium: hanging scroll, ink and light color on paper
  • Original Title: 古木寒泉圖
  • Inscriptions: 辛亥五月望徵明戲寫古木寒泉 時年八十二 [印] 徵明; 停雲, 2 additional seals of Mou Yueqi 繆曰芑 (18th century).
  • Department: Chinese Art
  • Culture: China, Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
  • Credit Line: Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry
  • Collection: ASIAN - Hanging scroll
  • Accession Number: 1997.102

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