Paintings of the emperor presiding over special events were regarded as commemorative images of imperial power and legitimacy. Here, Emperor Xuanzong is setting off on a hunt with members of his court. The image of the emperor, set apart from the others and astride a white horse, adheres to the long-established convention of portraying eminent figures larger than those of lesser rank. This large-scale work is also an example of group portraiture; the courtiers and officials all have individualized features, presumably portraying individuals who participated in the event. The deer, rabbits, ducks, cranes, and other birds crowded into the upper right not only stand for the intended quarry but also are auspicious symbols. Executed in the Song-derived, traditional manner of the early Ming academy, this work displays no traits of personal style, in keeping with its primary function of public display.
The work bears no signatures or seals and is only attributed to Shang Xi.

Wen Zhengming came from a prestigious Suzhou family. Apart from a brief period of official service in Beijing, Wen remained in Suzhou, living the life of a landed scholar-gentleman. In principle, literati artists were amateurs, who painted to express themselves without thought of profit. In reality, he and other literati painters were engaged in an intricate pattern of exchanges of goods, services, and favors through which they derived substantial "incomes" from their paintings. The Studio of True Appreciation, dated to 1549, is an example of a type of painting often made at the request of the owner of a house or villa, portraying the host receiving his visitors and surrounded by the trappings of high culture and taste. To have an artist of the stature of Wen Zhengming depict one's villa in his coolly disciplined, irreproachably upper-class style-flattened forms, a pale, subdued palette, and plain, even awkward, brushwork-enhanced one's prestige in the eyes of the literati elite.