Gu Kaizhi - Nymph of the Luo River

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Nymph of the Luo River
Gu Kaizhi (China, ca.344-406)
ca.380 a.c.
Ink and colors on silk, 21.7 x 572.8 cm (8,5 x 225,5 in)
National Museum, Taipei (Taiwan)

Gazing upon her from a distance;
Bright as the sun
Over rosy morning clouds

From the “Luo Shen Fu” poem by Cao Zhi

Gu Kaizhi is often considered as the founder of Chinese Painting. Painter, poet and calligrapher, he wrote three books about painting theory that deeply influenced Chinese painting for many centuries. As for his paintings, three of them have come to us through copies by later artists: “Wise and Benevolent Women”, the spectacular “Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies” exhibited at the British Museum, and the poetic “Nymph of the Luo River”, illustrated here.

“Nymph of the Luo River”, from which three copies survived (now exhibited in Taipei, Liaoning and Washington), illustrates a poem written by Cao Zhi, one of the most important poets from the Han Dynasty. Like the other two surviving works by Kaizhi it is a large scroll that should be “read” horizontally, depicting the love story between the poet and the nymph, from their meeting to their parting.

The three copies of “Nymph of the Luo River” that have survived show some differences in style, but all of them are works of great sensitivity, in which the delicate figures seem to float in the middle of the beautiful river landscape.

G. Fernández -

Nymph of the Luo River  - detail

"Nymph of the Luo River" - Detail of the scroll

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