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23) Sung Hui-tsung. The Five-Colored Parakeet. Hanging scroll. Ink and color on silk. Late Northern Sung. The Sung Emperor Hui-tsung (1082-1135) was among the greatest imperial patrons of painting in Chinese history (the other was Emperor Ch'ien-lung [ 1710-1799] of the Ch'ing dynasty). Beginning since at least the early T'ang, the Chinese Court usually had an official or unofficial Painting Academy that housed painters appointed as government officials to supply the Court with paintings. Hui-tsung, who was an active and talented painter himself, put great stress on the Sung Painting Academy, and under his influence, it's painters developed a style that dominated the aesthetic world of the Southern Sung period (1127-1279). This style has many facets, but its hallmarks are an attention to realistic detail, meticulous execution, and a concern for the visual representation of a wide variety of textured surfaces. Given these concerns, an important subgenre of Sung Academy painting is "birds and flowers," of which this parakeet by the emperor himself is a fine example. The bird is painstakingly and realistically rendered, with an obvious delight in the ability of the painter and his style to reproduce the bright, varied colors of the parakeet. An poem written by the emperor accompanies the image.

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