This ceiling boss features four faces with traces of paint that are arranged in a radial pattern with the crowns of their heads converging on a single, central point. Two of the faces are female, identifiable by the wimples worn on their heads, while the other two, wearing small pointed caps and sporting beards, are male. The symmetrical regularity of the piece is counterbalanced by subtle asymmetries introduced by differences in detail and the sequence of facial types.
This architectural boss decorated with four faces was originally placed in the crown of a ceiling vault at the point where the ribs of the vault met. The arrangement of the four faces would have reinforced the expansive radial pattern formed by the ribs while the boss itself would have simultaneously emphasized the center of the vault.
Inscribed in blue ink over pencil, below image: heinrich Schenker In pencil, l.l. inside plate mark: 1. zustand 2. druck In pencil, bottom center inside plate mark: No 2. r.h. 1925 London In pencil, bottom center: F. GOULDING. Netherwood R. Shepherds Bush Rd. Hammer?__.
Inscription and 3 seals in right margin: painted copy of Wang Miens seals, 1) Chu-chai t'u wei, 2) Kuai-chi chia shan, and 3) Fang wai ssü ma; Inscription on right: Below the solitary peak above West lake, remains the open forest of many plum trees; the old trunks and stones stripped of melancholy snow; only the theme of flowers is associated since ancient times, signed Wang Yüan Chang; Copy of colophon by Wu Chang (an owner of the Wang Mien original) on left, signed Wu Chang, no seals; Inscription by Baiitsu in lower left: On the 23 day of the eigth month, in the autumn of the year Teimi (1847) Yamamoto Baiitsu Ryo immitated. followed by the artist's seal: Bai-itsu
The prunus branch depicted by Baiitsu makes use of the long vertical form provided by the hanging scroll format. The branch enters the visual field from the top right, and curves downward toward the bottom of the scroll. On either side of the branch are sections of calligraphic text.
This painting exemplifies one of the ways Japanese artists learned from Chinese models: it is a direct copy of a work by the Yuan dynasty artist Wang Mien. Baiitsu placed thin sheets of paper over the original and traced the contours of the branches in pale ink; then, looking at the two works side-by-side, he painted in the washes, imitating Wang’s “flying white” brush strokes. Baiitsu even copied Wang’s original inscription and seals, as well as a colophon by a later owner of the work.