Bird and Narcissus, attributed to the Emperor Huizong

  • China, Southern Song period
  • 13c
  • Hanging scroll,color on silk, fan shaped
  • H-24.3 W-27
Catalogue Entry

Attributed to the Emperor Huizong
China, Southern Song dynasty, 13th century
Hanging scroll, color on silk, fan shaped
Height, 24.3cm; width, 27.0cm

This circular fan painting shows a close-up view of a blossoming spray of narcissus and a small bird turning back to look at the flowers. While the bird has wing markings that resemble those of a sparrow, it is relatively slender and has a black ring on its neck. The wings are picked out in thin, lightly brushed strokes, and a section has been brushed with light ink and light color. A similar work can be seen in the Young Sparrows attributed to Song Ruzhi (Tokyo National Museum), but here the depiction is even softer and more refined.
The outlines on the leaves of the narcissus are so faintly drawn that at first glance they appear to have been painted in a "boneless" style, while the stems and buds of the flowers are drawn with clearly depicted outlines, indicating a mixture of styles. The blackened areas of the leaves are later additions of silk, and this added silk weave is completely different from the original silk surface. The left half of the black ring around the bird's neck and the black section at the end of the tail show an ink tone that differs from that of the rest of the painting, and these areas appear to be later brushwork.

Immediately to the right of the bird is the Song Emperor Huizong's written seal layered with his red letter gourd-shaped seal.

The fascinating element of this work is the fact that a painting in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, by Huizong includes narcissus flowers and leaves that resemble those seen here. The Allspices and Wild Birds recorded by Enshunkaku in the Sekiryo Hokyu volume 3 shows a couple of birds on an allspice plum tree and narcissus blooming at the foot of the tree. This realistic painting goes on to show a single yellow bee flying around the tree. These 2 works each depict 2 stems of flowers, each with 4 buds and with one of the flowers in full bloom. This similarity between the 2 works shows that they probably stood in some relationship to an original work by the Song emperor.

This painting is accompanied by an authentica-tion statement by Kano Eishin (Yasunobu 1613-85) stating that it is a painting of a narcissus and bird by the Emperor Huizong. MN