Exhibitions/ Art Object

Millet and Sparrows

Geiai (active mid-16th century)
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
mid-16th century
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image: 39 9/16 × 17 5/8 in. (100.5 × 44.8 cm) Overall with knobs: 75 3/4 × 24 7/8 in. (192.4 × 63.2 cm)
Credit Line:
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number:
Not on view
The everyday sight of cavorting sparrows was a favored theme among painters of the Muromachi period. This deftly rendered ink painting captures their lively forms in an abbreviated manner, using so-called boneless brushwork to render their feathers without lines, in varied tones, and exploiting the white ground for their soft underbodies. The meticulous linear definition of the chrysanthemum and millet emphasizes their differing textures and allows a pleasing contrast in brushwork. A number of skilled ink paintings of birds and plants bearing “Geiai” seals survive, including a very similar composition of approximately the same size in the Mary Griggs Burke Collection. At least two versions of the “Geiai” seal are known, and some paintings have an additional seal reading “Tonshu.” Although much of Geiai’s biography remains unclear, it is thought that he worked in the capital of Kyoto, and was commissioned to paint interiors for the grand Zen temple Daitokuji.
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