Nymph of the Lou River

Artist: Traditionally attributed to Gu Kaizhi (ca. 344-ca. 406)

Historical Periods: Southern Song dynasty, mid-12th to mid-13th century

Medium: Ink and color on silk

Dimensions: H x W (image): 24.2 x 310.9 cm (9 1/2 x 122 3/8 in)

Collection: Freer Gallery of Art

The painting almost reads as a narrative scene, from left to right, with various figures as characters. From what appears to be a leader on the left being fanned to the people going about their day on the island. But when we focus on the far right, there seems to be a more active scene with a human body with a demon’s face spitting fire and a person levitating on clouds. This contrast from a peaceful and serene space on the left can lead us to create our own story about what will happen! Another aspect we can look at in this painting is through the composition of the scene on the right, where the landscape and natural environment frame the painting by providing foreground and speak to the relationship between people and the land. As we draw our attention to the two people “flying”, there is almost no background to ground them, appearing to “flying” above everyone and heading towards the left. However, we do see a small mountain in between the two figures, also extending the vast mountain range into the current scene.



Author: Isma Mora

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