Red and White Cotton Rosemallow


Red and White Cotton Rosemallow

Paintings / Song Dynasty / China

By Li Di (dates unknown)

Place of production:China

Southern Song dynasty, 1197

Color on silk




National Treasure

Because cotton roses bloom brilliantly, they were considered an auspicious symbol since ancient times. One particular variety of cotton roses blooms white in the morning, and slowly turns red over time. This gradual change is reminiscent of someone’s face becoming flushed from alcohol, a trait that earned the flowers the name “suifuyo,” or “drunk cotton roses.” In this work, the white blossoms show the flowers’ color in the morning, while the red blossoms show how they appear around noon. The two paintings reflect the passage of time. The growth of the flowers, from closed buds to blossoms, is also represented.

Li Di was a court painter of the Southern Song dynasty. These paintings, inscribed as having been created in 1197, are some of his most famous works. The petals are depicted softly, with a gradient of light color, and the leaves are drawn with stronger brushstrokes for the outline. The textures of the cotton roses reflect the outstanding technical skills of the artist.
This work was brought to Japan in the 15th century, during the Muromachi period, and has been carefully preserved as a masterpiece of Chinese court painting in the bird-and-flower genre.

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