Found! A Pair of Doves–and More…

What in the World?

Originally Published in 2001

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"A Pair of Doves"
“A Pair of Doves” | Museum Object Number: C119

In 1999, James Cahill, a leading international authority on Chinese painting, descended into the storerooms of the University of Pennsyl­vania Museum’s Asian Section to view the painting collection. As he writes in a recent article in Orientations Magazine, he did not have high hopes, “in the face of reports of earlier visits by specialists in the field who had gone through the same works and found nothing of interest” (p. 62). In the event, however, he uncovered about a dozen noteworthy paintings in ink and color on silk scrolls that had gone unnoticed for half a century. Six months later, Roderick Whitfield, Percival David Professor of Chinese and East Asian Art at the University of London, found in the storage area another, much earlier work, “A Pair of Doves” (illustrated here). It and two of the paintings identified by Cahill were on display at the Museum March 14-28, 2001. Cahill spoke about five of the paintings that date to the Ming and Qing dynasties (AD 1368-1911) at the UPM’s Elizabeth Watts and Howard C. Petersen Annual Program on March 14th.

“A Pair of Doves”

Roderick Whitfield writes of this scroll painting in Orientations, “The elements of the scene are simple and commonplace, yet drawn with a delicate sensibility and accurate in more than just detail” (p. 58). He dates it to ca. 1060, by comparisons to contemporary works, noting particularly the compositions in which the rocks, offset to the right, anchor the scene, as well as stylistic details such as the way the rocks are constructed of “a number of overlapping planes. darkest at the farther edges” (p.60) and the crisp drawing of leaves in double-outline technique. He attributes the work to Yi Yuanji, whose name appears on the rock. Whitfield concludes his art historical analysis by writing, “The [UPM’s] beautiful painting is unquestionably a Northern Song painting of the mid-eleventh century, finely tuned to contemporary taste in subject matter and rendering, and bearing a signature that at the very least is not at all implausible, regardless of whether it was inscribed by the artist or by a slightly later hand, and that at best may provide another work to add to the very limited repertory of attributions to Yi Yuanji” (p.61).


Cite This Article

"Found! A Pair of Doves–and More…." Expedition Magazine 43, no. 1 (March, 2001): -. Accessed April 18, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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