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Anonymous (later 15th century) 無名氏

‘Two Pheasants on Rock by Bamboo and Stream’

Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
136.0 x 63.3 cm. (53 5/8 x 24 7/8 in.)

Artist’s (?) seal:
I-yueh hsing-ch’ing (‘taking pleasure by natural temperament’)

‘During rin-sho (the sixth lunar month) of the fourth year of the Bunroku reign-era (1595), Churyo presented this in service.’ Seal: Chu

(See writeup below.)

Accentuated by their red feet and faces, two pheasants perch on a rock overlooking a stream and below several sprays of bamboo that provide cover for two mynahs. The brushstrokes on especially the rock were applied swiftly and with more interest in calligraphic flourish than pure verisimilitude. The strongly diagonal composition provides visual kinetic energy while the postures and attitudes of the birds create narrative interest. Close parallels can be drawn between this painting and those by Lin Liang (ca. 1430-ca. 1490) (fig.1), and these suggest an approximate date if not artist for ‘Two Pheasants on Rock by Bamboo and Stream.’

The colophon here was written in the year 1595, so the painting was in Japan by that date. Since this was the period of Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea, some have suggested that it was among the plunder in goods and people brought back then to Japan, and even that the painting itself is Korean. However, I believe the work to be Chinese , and to have entered Japan by less dramatic means, and then to have been presented by Churyo to his daimyo lord.


fig 1
Fig. 1. Lin Liang: ‘Peacock in Moonlight,’ after Toda Teisuke and Ogawa Hiromitsu: Chugoku no Kachoga to Nihon, Tokyo, 1983, pl. 81.

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