大千居士爰; 張爰; 爰居士; 遊戲神通; 摩登戒體; 大千豪髮
Don manuel : Guo, Youshou 郭有守, Docteur
Inscription and signature: 開元中，嶺南獻白鸚鵡飬之宮中。歲久頗聰慧洞曉言詞上及貴妃皆乎雪衣娘。上今以近代詞臣詩篇授之，數遍便可諷誦。上每与貴妃及諸王博戲，上稍不勝，左右呼雪衣娘，必飛入局中鼓舞，以乱其行列，或啄嬪御及諸王手，使不能爭道。
Painter’s seal: 1. 張爰 (白文) 2. 爰居士(朱文) 3. 遊戲神通(朱文) 4. 摩登戒體(朱文) 5. 大千象髪(白文)
Translation: In the Kaiyuan era [713-741], the southern lands of China sent the emperor a white parakeet that was extremely intelligent and spoke the human language. The emperor and Yang Guifei called it the Lady in White and Yang ordered it to be taught to learn works by the poets of the day by heart. This was soon accomplished. The emperor often played cards with the princes and Yang Guifei. When he was losing, he would call the Lady in White so that she would cause the cards to become mixed up and the game to be ended.
In the seventh month of the Yiyou year , on a cool day, after the rain. By chance I was reading the chronicles of the Tang era and took a few moments to paint this passage.
The hermit Daqian, Yuan. (M.-T. B.) The beauty and tragic fate of the imperial concubine Yang 楊貴妃 (719-756) had inspired writers and artists in China from the Tang era to the 20th century. For Zhang Daqian, the image of Yang Guifei provided an aesthetic alternative to the conventions that had governed the depiction of women in figure painting since the Ming period. The painter wanted to throw out the ideal of evanescent beauty as embodied by Lin Daiyu 林黛玉, the heroine of the classical novel Dream of the Red Chamber. Thus, the imperial concubine, famous for her plumpness, became the model for a “vigorous beauty”, jianmei 建美, which Zhang Daqian set out to promote.
Zhang Daqian’s approach should be seen in the light of his thoughts on the history of figure painting. He saw this genre as having reached its height in the Tang era, before entering a long period of decline. The type of beauty embodied by Yang Guifei therefore corresponded to the golden age of figure painting. Zhang Daqian’s long stay in Dunhuang brought him in direct contact with the art of this period. The painting in the Cernuschi Museum is dated 1945, two years after his return from Dunhuang. It is a monochrome work that differs from his copies of ancient polychrome wall paintings. However, the facial features, the twist of the body and costume details appear to derive from Buddhist works that he copied in Dunhuang. In this profane composition, Zhang Daqian recalls the sculptural forms of the Dunhuang figures, which he enhances with a lively brushstroke.
He appears to have produced at least two other versions of this work. One, dated 1946, is very similar to the Cernuschi Museum painting. The second, dated 1953, features vivid polychrome. This series of paintings reflects Zhang Daqian’s progressive absorption of the line and the colour of Dunhuang in the second half of the 1940s.