The Lingnan School

Fig. 6. Handscroll cominued from page 15. Fig. IS. Ccystal bottle with cocke'eL ently Gan Xuanwen painted a series of these strange, tumbling Pekinese dogs, and they were not all signed. In the Daoguang period the dogs were a popular subject in other me– dia as well, and they appear, for in– stance, on porcelain snuff bottles. However, on the porcelain snuff bot– tles, which were objects of craft far down in the hierarchy of arts from Gan's literati painting, the dogs, whatever they lack in profundity of expression, are rather more recog– nizable. In going for the spirit rather Fig. 16. Reverse of bottle in figure 15. than the surface appearance of the animals, Gan has managed to make them look like runaway toupees or frisky hearth rugs. In Chinese art, the lower the art form, the more ob– vious and surface-oriented it is; in the high arts, essential meaning re– places surface meaning, and objec– tive accuracy of description becomes less important. Before moving to the undated works of Gan Xuanwen, let us exam– ine the small group of bottles signed 'Shi shanren.' One work is sufficient 14 to demonstrate the high probability of Shi shanren's being one of Gan's hao. Gan frequently painted small vignettes in faceted crystal bottles of birds, bamboos, rocks, and so forth. Here we see such a painting, with a cockerel in a setting of rocks and bamboo (fig. 15). The reverse has an inscription and bears the signature 'Shi shanren,' (fig. 16). Another very similar bottle is recorded, although both sides are inscribed only with calligraphy (fig. 17). Here we see the same inscription, written in exactly the same way, but signed Can Xuan. In this form of clerical script certain characters may be written with sub– tle variations. Quite apart from the identical content of the inscriptions, that these two exhibit not only the same style but consistently the same choice in form suggests that they are by the same hand. Another example in the popular format of several of Gan Xuanwen's crystal bottles has a landscape that would immediately be attributed stylistically to Gan Xuanwen (fig. 18). The back, however, is signed 'Shi shanren' (fig. 19). I have a record of two other works with the same signature, both of which in form and style are en– tirely sensible as the works of Gan Xuanwen; and none are known that are of a divergent style. One is illus– trated here, combining a typical landscape with both clerical and