Out from the Stable

Out From The Stable
Ink in colour
H.27.94 X W.93.98cm
Palace Museum, Beijing

Ren Ren-Fa (1254-1327), China

A scholar painter of the Yuan dynasty, Ren served in the Water Bureau, handling flood control for the Yellow River, and painted for his own pleasure. Out From the Stable is one of Ren’s few surviving works.

The use of two horses enabled the evolution of symbolism in horse painting; the horse can now have multiple connotations, as opposed to just one, as in the previous work. The right horse is corpulent, representing the unscrupulous official who has become well fed through scheming and deceit. The left horse has maintained an honest and humble spirit and subsequently become so lean his ribs protrude.

Does the lean horse represent Ren’s own virtue, and the painting his overall frustrations with civil service?



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