The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Maggie Squires

As with many copies of earlier works, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s early Ming dynasty handscroll known as Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute: The Story of Lady Wenji is most often discussed in the context of its predecessor. The earlier work in question exists only in fragments, and is preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. These paintings offer not only a moving emotional depth, but also a fascinating glimpse into the material world of steppe nomads as seen through the eyes of Chinese elites. The New York scroll so closely resembles the Song Dynasty paintings in Boston that many scholars of Chinese Painting have discussed it only within the historical context of the thirteenth century, largely ignoring the Ming period addition of distinctive pile carpets and felt appliqué saddle blankets. Several carpet scholars have taken up the Eighteen Songs illustrations, but they have been so eager to fit these designs into the ever-developing canon of carpet history that their Ming Dynasty context has been again overlooked. In her upcoming research, Maggie will carefully examine the nomadic details in both sets of paintings and the scholarship surrounding them will reveal contradictions and shed light on the possible origins and relationship to the material record.