Flowers and Fruits by Miao Jiahui, hanging scroll; ink and color on paper; Qing Dynasty
The imperial paintings of the Qing Dynasty already declined in the late Qing Dynasty. However, Empress Dowager Cixi assembled female artists from various places into imperial court to serve her. The most famous among them was Miao Jiahui.
Miao Jiahui was born in a scholarly family in Kunming, Yunnan. She learnt painting flowers and birds since childhood and was a female artist known far and wide. In the middle reign of Emperor Guangxu, Miao Jiahui was selected and sent to the imperial court. She was regarded highly by Empress Dowager Cixi by virtue of her open and generous character and her thorough comprehension in calligraphy and painting art. She usually accompanied Cixi in painting and chatting and was endowed with the courtesy of not kneeling down. She was honored as "Master Miao".
This painting scroll of Flowers and Fruits was created in the Seventh Year of Tongzhi’s Reign. The graceful white camellia and slim narcissus depicted in the painting bring out the best in each other, which jointly grant the viewers the image of a pure, ideal world. The nandina and chrysanthemum in the picture stand for auspiciousness and longevity; pomegranate implies more offspring and more blessing, which extended the imperial concubines' fine wishes.