Irony, play and compassion

Quickness and wit in calligraphy

Such invention and pleasure is even more pervasively a part of decorative schemes where calligraphy is applied. On this late Qing vase open calligraphy forms swims over the surface, corresponding to both the imagery and the polished form of the vase.

This is also another point where folk art intersects with literati taste. Folk calligraphy is often extremely inventive, especially where characters provide a simple binding form for imagery of people, plants and animals. Here the theme is the classic 'three friends of winter' - pine, bamboo and prunus. The plants themselves in combination are sufficient to identify this expected subject; the gnarled characters described by the pine trunk are essentially a rebus.



Early 20th century
Private collection
Three friends of winter
Drawing of sculpted decoration