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Ink Painting and the Rinpa Tradition

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The Plain of Musashi

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
17th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Six-panel folding screen; ink, color, and gold on gilt 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
  • Description

    A full moon, once silver, 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. Within this ambiguous space, a queue of descending geese at upper right signifies the vastness of the grassy plain. The combination of motifs identifies the landscape as the once-wild plain of Musashi, now a densely populated area of North Tokyo. Although few actually knew this remote area before the seventeenth century, when the shogun moved his castle to Edo, it was known to evoke a certain mood in poetry. Since the tenth century, it has usually been associated with autumn. The poetic tradition underlying this image began in a poem by an aristocrat, Minamoto Michikata (1189–1238):

    Musashino wa
    Tsuki no irubeki
    Mine mo nashi
    Obana ga sue ni
    Kakaru shirakumo

    (On the Musashi plain
    there is no peak
    for the moon to enter—
    white clouds catch
    in the tips of the flowers)

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    What
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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
45262

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