Grapevine and Squirrel
Anonymous. Korean 17th century. Joseon period.
Hanging scroll. Ink on paper.
Seal: Shinso 眞相
Scroll: H. 200 cm x W. 31 cm (79” x 12”)
Image: H. 122 cm x W. 29.5 cm (48” x 11.5”)
Price: USD 18,000
The grapevine came to China and then Korea from western Asia via the silk road trade routes. By the mid-Joseon period, it was one of the most popular subjects for Korean literati painters. Grapevines were painted as a singular subject or, less commonly, in combination with squirrels, which are associated with children due to their playful nature. Together, grapevines and squirrels embody wishes for abundant offspring and wealth.
For the Korean literati artist the twisting vines, curling tendrils and round, plump grapes provided ample opportunity for expressive “brush play”. In this painting the artist has abstracted the scene and is seemingly unconcerned with discontinuities and proportion. Vines spring up from nowhere, grapes hang in random clusters and the squirrel’s head appears as if twisted backwards. For the vines and leaves we can feel a sense of speed in the brushstrokes, imparting a dynamic feel which is at once intense and animated. This contrasts dramatically with the countless tiny strokes of ink which realistically capture the texture of the squirrel’s fur.
The painting has recently been restored and remounted in Japan (where it was discovered). At some stage during the Edo period it was mounted in Japan in the style of a tea-ceremony scroll. We have retained this brocade and mounting style.