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1. Interpréter l'iconographie satirique dans la peinture classique

Visions of Blindness in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Painting

Visions de la cécité dans la peinture chinoise du xviiie siècle
清代中期繪畫的盲人形象
Alice Bianchi
p. 23-56

Abstracts

This essay explores the representation of blindness and its metaphorical dimension in scholar painting of Qing China (1644-1911), a period marked by a major increase of these images. Focusing on a 1757 Zhu Yan’s handscroll titled Groups of Blind People, where one hundred blind characters are engaged in comic or incongruous situations such as appreciating antiquities, fighting or grabbing a giant copper coin, it examines the use of humor and visual satire to express moral criticism, with emphasis on identifying and explaining some of the puns or familiar sayings on which these images rely. By casting some light on this and similar works, as well as sorting out other modes in which the blind were depicted in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century China, the article also aims to open the way to further studies of this topic.

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Excerpt

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Outline

Zhu Yan’s Groups of Blind People
Composition, style and sources of inspiration
The blind connoisseurs
The blind men fighting
The blind men and the giant copper coin
Conclusion: The physical and the metaphorical blindness

First lines

In the past, Chinese artworks belonging to the category known as fengsu hua, “genre paintings”—non-narrative illustrations dealing with neither identifiable individuals nor specific events and therefore more conveniently associated with classes or types—have often been taken as straightforward depictions of everyday life and as objective representations of the customs and material culture of a certain period. Recent scholarship has shifted the focus from the documentary value of genre scenes to other important and sometimes neglected dimensions of these images, thus amply demonstrating that they are not simply a direct rendering of life but an interpretation of it, selective accounts that often present non-existent events and figures. Like their Western counterparts, moral meanings, witty commentaries on society or even biting satire are hidden beneath the realistic surface of many works.

With an increasing interest in the history of genre scenes, most of the so-called “low-life” wor...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Alice Bianchi, “Visions of Blindness in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Painting”Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident, 46 | 2023, 23-56.

Electronic reference

Alice Bianchi, “Visions of Blindness in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Painting”Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident [Online], 46 | 2023, Online since 02 January 2026, connection on 20 July 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/extremeorient/2836; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/extremeorient.2836

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About the author

Alice Bianchi

Is an Associate Professor of Chinese Art History at the Université of Paris Cité, and a member of the East Asian Civilizations Research Centre (CRCAO). Her research focuses on genre painting and the visual representations of disaster and relief in Chinese visual arts. She has published articles, essays and reviews in the field of art history, history and visual studies including “Picturing Disaster in Late Imperial China: The Liumin tu Tradition and Its Transformations,” (Journal of Oriental Studies, 2021), “Ghost-Like Beggars in Chinese Painting: The Case of Zhou Chen,” in Vincent Durand-Dastès & Marie Laureillard (eds), Fantômes dans l’Extrême-Orient d’hier et d’aujourd’hui (Presses de l’Inalco, Paris, 2017), and “Mendiants et personnages de rue dans la peinture chinoise: un ensemble de quatre rouleaux des Ming et des Qing” (Arts Asiatiques, 2014). Her most recent co-edited book is The Social Lives of Chinese Objects (Brill, 2022, with Lyce Jankowski).
Est maîtresse de conférences en histoire des arts de la Chine à l’université Paris Cité, et membre du Centre de recherche sur les civilisations de l’Asie orientale (CRCAO). Ses recherches portent sur la peinture de genre ainsi que sur la représentation de la catastrophe et des secours dans les arts visuels chinois. Parmi ses publications figurent « Picturing Disaster in Late Imperial China : The Liumin tu Tradition and Its Transformations » (Journal of Oriental Studies, 2021), « Ghost-Like Beggars in Chinese Painting : The Case of Zhou Chen » in Vincent Durand-Dastès & Marie Laureillard (dir.), Fantômes dans l’Extrême-Orient d’hier et d’aujourd’hui (Presses de l’Inalco, Paris, 2017) et « Mendiants et personnages de rue dans la peinture chinoise : un ensemble de quatre rouleaux des Ming et des Qing » (Arts Asiatiques, 2014). Elle a également codirigé, avec Lyce Jankowski, le volume collectif The Social Lives of Chinese Objects, paru chez Brill en 2022.

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Copyright

The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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