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武蔵野図屏風
The Plains of Musashi

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
17th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Six-panel folding screen; ink, color, gold, silver, and gold leaf on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 60 1/16 x 140 in. (152.6 x 355.6 cm)
Classification:
Screens
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mary Livingston Griggs and Marry Griggs Burke Foundation Gift, 1967
Accession Number:
67.235
Not on view
A full moon, once silver but now blackened by age, appears on an unobstructed horizon between a background of golden clouds and a foreground frieze of grasses and autumnal wildflowers: yellow maidenflower, blue and white Chinese bellflower, purple agrimony, and wild chrysanthemum. A queue of descending geese (perhaps a later addition) at upper right conveys the vastness of the grassy plain. These pictorial motifs are associated with the once-wild plain of Musashi, now a densely populated area of North Tokyo. Since the tenth century, Musashi has usually been associated with autumn. The tradition underlying this image began in a poem by Minamoto no Michikata (1189–1238):

Musashino wa
tsuki no irubeki
mine mo nashi
obana ga sue ni
kakaru shirakumo

The plains of Musashi
have no mountain peaks
into which the moon can slip,
as white clouds enshroud
spears of plume grasses.
—Trans. John T. Carpenter
Inscription: Musashino wa
tsuki no irubeki
mine mo nashi
kusa yori idete
kusa ni koso ire

On the Musashi plain
there is no peak
for the moon to enter,
from grasses it rises
and into grasses it sets.

Translation from Kren Brock, Autumn Grasses and Water: Motifs in Japanese Art (New York: Japan Society, 1983)
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