Exhibitions/ Art Object

Magpie on Viburnum Branch

Genga (Japanese, active early 16th century) , in Song tradition
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
early 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 18 1/4 in. × 14 in. (46.3 × 35.5 cm) Overall with mounting: 53 1/2 × 19 1/2 in. (135.9 × 49.5 cm) Overall with knobs: 53 1/2 × 21 1/2 in. (135.9 × 54.6 cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
Not on view
Framed by the lush blossoms of the viburnum (Japanese: gamazumi) on which it perches, this long-tailed magpie is depicted with an attention to detail that reflects the reigning ideal of naturalism in the imperial painting academy of the Chinese Southern Song dynasty. Chinese bird-and-flower paintings, treasured by
the Ashikaga shoguns of the fifteenth century, exerted a seminal influence on Japanese painting. Little is known about the artist Genga—identified as such by a seal at lower right, which is also found on a small number of similar paintings—even where or when he lived. Nevertheless, the simplified academic brush manner and strong color suggest an artist of the early sixteenth century. Genga is variously recorded as a follower of Sesshū (1420–1506) and Sōtan (1413–1481), who served as official painter to the shogunate in the second half of the fifteenth century, and to whom many bird-and-flower paintings in the academic style have been traditionally attributed.

A fine set of screen paintings of flowers and birds in a landscape in the collection of the Freer-Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C., also bear Genga seals. Among the screens’ motifs are a a viburnum bush and a pair of colorful long-tailed magpies, reminding us that the magpie, though a rare species in Japan, was common to the repertoire of East Asian bird-and-flower painting.
Marking: Seal: Genga
Related Objects

Musk Cat

Artist: Uto Gyoshi (Japanese, active second half of 16th century) Date: second half of the 16th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper Accession: 2015.300.66 On view in:Not on view

Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove

Artist: Sesson Shūkei (ca. 1504–ca. 1589) Date: 1550s Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper Accession: 2015.300.50 On view in:Not on view

Birds and Flowers of Summer and Autumn

Artist: Shikibu Terutada (Japanese, active mid–16th century) Date: mid-16th century Medium: Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and color on paper Accession: 2015.300.64a, b On view in:Not on view

The Chinese Explorer Zhang Qian on a Raft

Artist: Maejima Sōyū (active mid-16th century) Date: mid-16th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink on paper Accession: 2002.3 On view in:Gallery 225

Su Shi Riding a Donkey

Artist: Bokudō Sojun (Japanese, 1373–1459) Date: early 15th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and gold on paper Accession: 2015.300.49 On view in:Gallery 225