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JICSBS, Autumn 1995, pp.15-19 and concluded that the subject represents a desire for abundant descendants, since the grapevine produces large numbers of grapes every year and the squirrel's reproductive powers are impressive. The inspiration for Ding in this case is cited as Baiyang shanren, which was the literary name (hao) of Chen Chun (1483-1544), a Ming painter of the Wu School who was known for his poetic compositions, calligraphy and paintings of flowers and landscapes.
Ding Erzhong's paintings from 1895 to 1899 are uniformly superb, but from 1900 onwards we begin to see some marginally less impressive works, with one or two, particularly from 1902, which are well below his best. It is likely that these represent a decrease in interest in the art-form in favour of seal carving and his other arts, related to the move to Nanjing (see discussion under no. 557). Although a rare subject, the painting of the branches of the grapevine here has lost some of the magic we expect from this master if compared to his magnificent pine and cypress trees of former years, but it may be that in painting a grapevine for the first time, he simply chose a different style of painting more appropriate to its appearance.