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明 文徵明 《行楷書書 歳暮齋居即事》 立軸巨幅

At Leisure in My Studio at Year’s End, in running-standard script

The lane at my gate is desolate and drear, few are those who come to call;
I find the true flavor of restful leisure in lounging about doing nothing.
A wayward rooster in the quiet of the day crows within the deep courtyard;
Chill sparrows shelter from western winds in this little stand of trees.
All my affairs have slipped into arrears as the year draws to its close;
My friends are scattered few and far apart and the rain just drizzles on.
Fragrance fades from the incense burner and the teacups have toppled over;
I composed a poem on plum blossoms, but I’m sorry it is not well done.

The title of this poem hints at its melancholy tone. Wen Zhengming eloquently describes the sadness he feels as he sits alone in his studio at the end of the year, reminiscing about how little he has accomplished. With just a few quick images, he succeeds in evoking a profound sense of introspection.

Calligraphy

Although Wen composed the poem in 1500, at the age of thirty, the confidence, energy, and forcefulness of his writing proclaim a mature master at the height of his artistic powers. He probably did not create this scroll until a much later date—perhaps in the early 1540s, when he was around seventy.

We know of only five scrolls of this heroic size by Wen Zhengming. The four other examples bear poems with official and imperial references that he composed during his time in Beijing (1523–26). This scroll is the only known example with a personal poem.

The scroll’s exceptionally large size and personal, informal subject matter suggest that Wen Zhengming created it for a spacious private home or the semiprivate quarters of an official residence.


明 文徵明 《行楷書書 歳暮齋居即事》 立軸巨幅
At Leisure in My Studio at Year’s End, in running-standard script

Wen Zhengming (1470–1559)
China, Ming dynasty, 1540s
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Purchase—Regents’ Collections Acquisition Program
Freer Gallery of Art F1980.9






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