The Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual

mustard seed2芥子園畫傳 : Jieziyuan Huazhuan : The Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual. Part one 1679, part two and three 1701. Woodblock prints in five colors. Graphic Arts Collection in process.

The Graphic Arts Collection holds a beautifully preserved copy of The Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual, including all five books of part one and four books of parts two and three. It was purchased in 1958 by Gillette G. Griffin, curator of graphic arts.

The title comes from the mansion known as Jieziyuan or the Mustard Seed Garden owned by the novelist and connoisseur Li Yu (1611-ca.1688). His son-in-law Shen Xinyou collected the teaching materials of the Chinese painter Li Liufang (1575-1629) and commissioned Wang Gai (1645-1707) to design a painting manual around these instructions, with a preface by Li Yu.

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It’s hard to overestimate the importance of these volumes, which were reprinted over and over in China and Japan. We are currently examining the plates and seals to identify which printing we hold and believe the first two parts are early, if not first, printings. The third part is clearly a much later edition.

Here are a few 17th-century pages from the first part.
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