The painting’s inscription hints that it was perhaps a gift or commission for New Years. Inscriptions in Chinese painting act as a literary devices enhancing the overall meaning of a painting; sometimes by offering insight to the artist’s purpose, adding visual elements with words, or documenting prominent ownership. In this case, artist Dai Xi writes that he “blows on his hands to warm them” before writing this poem in the winter time of the 12th lunar month, right before the New Year. As a working artist, we can infer Dai Xi is either fulfilling a commission or painting a gift for the upcoming holiday. This knowledge about the painting also enhances the subject matter, a prunus branch. This winter plum battles the last nights of winter to bloom in cold air. It is known as a sign for resilience and perseverance because the tree is still able to sprout its delicate flowers in frigid environments. Now imagine, without a few details from the inscription, this painting would be a simple flower branch balanced visually with an inscription. Yet now that we know Dai Xi inscribed the painting in the last cold nights of winter before the New Year, an appropriate time to paint the metaphoric winter plum as either a New Year’s gift or commission.
Alyssa Lee, Colby ‘08