Pictures of Auspicious Omens

Artist:Anonymous(Formerly attributed to Xiao Zhao),Song Dynasty Handscroll, Ink and colour on silk 34.5x1463.3cm
There are several existing copies of the the “Illustrations of Auspicious Omens” (Ruiyingtu), the earliest of which was created in the Southern Song dynasty. Three scrolls of the painting were owned by a powerful minister called Yan Song, as were recorded in The Catalogue of the Handscroll Paintings Collected by the Yan Family (yanshihuapinshoujuanmu), in which the painter was identified as Xiao Zhao. Another scroll of the painting was recorded by Sun Feng in the Ming dynasty as the “Illustrations of Auspicious Omens” before the Coronation of Emperor Gaozong”(songgaozongruiyingtu). According to Sun Feng, “this painting was created by Li Song and inscribed by Cao Xun.” None of the extant copies of the Illustrations of Auspicious Omens” was signed. Thus, the so-called painter, either Xiao Zhao or Li Song, is merely a speculation made by later generations.

The figures, their clothes and hats, the architectures and utensils are in accordance with the traditions in the Song Dynasty. The way the stones and trees were painted and the tracing of the figures create a forceful, refined, gentle, and majestic effect on this piece of colorful and densely woven silk. The men’s clothes, horse armor, curtains and screens of the houses, trees, stones, as well as mountain peaks and ranges were mainly painted in vermilion, while the overall color effect was well balanced by using such colors as purple, bluish gray, umber, and black. This way of coloring carries a typical feature seen in the early Southern Song dynasty, resembling that of “Lady Wenji’s Return to Han” (wenjiguihantu, the work was passed to Li Tang, and is now kept in the National Palace Museum in Taipei), “The Riverside Scene at the Qing Ming Festival” (qingmingshanghetu, kept in the Palace Museum in Beijing) by Zhang Zeduan, and “Women’s Filial Piety” (nvxiaojingtu, kept in the Palace Museum in Beijing).
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