Feb 28 Quincy Ngan

Friday, February 28, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153

To Frame, Highlight, and Cite Pictorial Motifs with Azurite:
Qiu Ying’s Polarizing Blue

Quincy Ngan
PhD Candidate
University of Chicago


This chapter reveals that the 16th century painter Qiu Ying (ca. 1498-1552) often reserved azurite blue for the most important pictorial element in a composition; for example, he used the pigment to highlight motifs bearing stylistic references to ancient masters. However, since blue also appears elsewhere, the importance of what is highlighted is always camouflaged so as to carry differing messages to different audiences. For example, in one of his painting patronized by the Xiang family, azurite blue appears to highlight of motifs that reference to an actual ancient painting in the Xiang family’s collection. And yet, without broad understanding of ancient painting styles, this art-historical reference in this painting is hardly recognizable. Analyzing what pictorial elements are picked up by azurite blue in five paintings, this chapter shows that the blue mineral carries information about the artistic exchange between Qiu Ying and his elite contemporaries, as well as the fraternity between the three brothers of the Xiang family and their vanity and aspiration of being erudite scholars.

This sophisticated use of the blue pigment represents a self-conscious effort on the part of Qiu Ying and his patron to differentiate themselves from their contemporaries who produced and purchased heavily pigmented paintings, and to avoid such exhibitions of conscious consumption. This argument about sophistication, subtlety, and differentiation of Qiu Ying and his patron’s uses of blue is further supported by the evidence of other paintings discussed in this chapter. Even though these paintings were produced before Qiu Ying’s time, they too consciously use azurite blue as a way to add focal points to a painting and to subtly state one’s distinguish social status. Therefore they represent the earliest predecessors of Qiu’s practice.


Friday, February 28, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng anf@uchicago.edu

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