Early Autumn, late 13th - 14th century

  • Qian Xuan, Chinese, 1235-1305

Ink, watercolor, and gold on paper

  • Overall: 12 1/4 inches × 34 feet 10 1/4 inches (31.1 cm × 10 m 62.4 cm) Image (signatures): 10 1/2 × 21 1/2 inches (26.7 × 54.6 cm) Image (painting): 10 1/2 × 47 1/2 inches (26.7 × 120.7 cm) Image (script): 10 1/2 × 84 1/4 inches (26.7 × 214 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, General Membership Fund


In this handscroll, the artist masterfully brings to life the sights and sounds of a marsh. Several viewers left inscriptions praising his rendering of details like insects flitting about and grasses swaying in the breeze. Yet, for some, a darker interpretation lurks—suggested by leaves beginning to wilt, a dragonfly eating a smaller fly, and a frog waiting to pounce.

Signed: Qian Xuan.

Stamps, in red, right: [seals of owners or connoisseurs] Stamps, in red, left: [seals of owners or connoisseurs]

Inscribed, left: [calligraphy]

Mr. P'ang Lai-sh'ien (Shanghai, China). (Ton-Ying and Co., New York, New York, USA)

1929-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

March, B. "Early Autumn." Bulletin of the DIA 10, no. 6 (1929): pp. 76-79 (ill.). Loan Exhibition of Chinese Art. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1929, no. 84. International Exhibition of Chinese Art. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1936, no. 1184. Art News Annual 45, no. 10, section 2, December 1946, no page. Cohn, W. Chinese Painting. London, 1948, p. 79, pl. 128-129. Chinese Painting. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum. Los Angeles, 1948, no. 18. Masterpieces of Chinese Bird and Flower Painting. Exh. cat., Fogg Museum. Boston, 1951, cat. no. 13. Rowland Jr., B. "Oriental Gardens and Western Eyes." Art News 50, no. 7 (November 1951): pp. 43-45, 62-63, p. 42 (ill.). Priest, A. "Insects: the Philosopher and the Butterfly." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 10, no. 6 (February 1952): pp. 177-178 (ill.). Edwards, R. "Ch'ien Hsuan and 'Early Autumn.'" Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America 7 (1953): no page. Sirén, O. Chinese Painting, Leadings Masters and Principles. New York, 1958, vol. 4, part 2 (pl. 37); vol. 7 (pl. 37). Willetts, W. Chinese Art, vol. 2. Harmondsworth, 1958, p. 595. Grigaut, Paul L., ed. DIA Picture Book: Art of China, India, and Japan. Detroit, 1961, p. 23. Edwards, R. The Field of Stones. Washington, 1962, p. XVI, footnote 2. Kindler Malerei Lexikon, vol. 1. Berlin, 1964, p. 735 (ill.). La Plante, J.D. "Asian Art." Art Horizons. Reading, no date, p. 142 (fig. 139, a and b). Detroit Institute of Arts Illustrated Handbook, Detroit, 1971, p. 48-49. Cahill, J. Parting at the Shore. New York, 1978, p. 136-138 (col. pl. 8) (as anonymous, Ming dynasty 1368/1580). University Liggett Antiques Show. Exh. cat., University Liggett School. Grosse Pointe Woods, 1979, pp. 74, 77, 106. Nagle, J. The Responsive Arts. Sherman Oaks, 1980, p. 161 (fig. 4-42). "The Barnhart-Cahill-Rogers Correspondence." Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley (1981): p. 29. Mitchell, S.W. "The Asian Collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts." Orientations 13, no. 5 (May 1982): pp. 14-36 (fig. 1). Jin, Weinuo. “Zao Qiu Tu Yu Ba Gong Tu” (Early Autumn and The Eight Noble Officials) Meishu yanjiu, 1982, p. 77. Boxer, Sarah. "The Subtlest Assassins." The Sciences 23, no.3 (May/June 1983): pp. 7-8 (ill.). Toda, Teisuke and Ogawa Hiromitsu, ed. Chugoku no Kachoga to Nippon (Flower and Bird Paintings of Japan and Chinese Paintings). Tokyo, 1983, vol. 10, no. 68, p. 132 (pl. 68). Wang, W., “Qian Xuan Cao Chong (Zao Qiu) Tu Kao” (A Study of Qian Xuan’s Grasses and Insects Painting Early Autumn). Gugong Bowuyuan Yuankan (Bulletin of the Palace Museum) 4 (1984): pp. 25-27. 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, p. 48, pp. 48-49 (ill.). Whitfield, R. Fascination of Nature: Plants and Insects in Chinese Painting and Ceramics of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). Seoul, 1993, p. 73-92 (pl. 23). Gillman, Derek. "Fascination of Nature by Roderick Whitfield." Oriental Art 60, no. 1 (Spring 1994): pp. 75-76. Augustin, Birgitta. “Idealist Painting and the Samurai.” Bulletin of the DIA 88, no. 1/4 (2014): pp. 93, 99 (fig. 12).

attributed to Qian Xuan, Early Autumn, late 13th - 14th century, ink, watercolor, and gold on paper. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, General Membership Fund, 29.1.