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Two White Egrets and a Kingfisher at a Lotus Pond

Kinkei Dōjin (Ryōbin) (Japanese, active first half of the16th century)

Period:
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Date:
first half of 16th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 37 3/4 x 15 5/8 in. (95.9 x 39.7 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
John C. Weber Collection
  • Description

    Two white egrets, both with the curled crest of feathers characteristic of Chinese egrets, stand in a pond in winter. The kingfisher, with its disproportionately long beak—well suited for fishing—defies gravity by resting on a thick stalk of a reed with angular leaves rendered with calligraphic vigor. The dried-out lotus seedpod centered above the heads of the egrets conveys a somber mood, especially keeping in mind that the lotus plant, which arises from the muck of the bottom of the pond to blossom forth, was a symbol of Buddhist progress to salvation. The life cycle of a lotus plant was often used by monk-painters of medieval times as a metaphor for transience.

    Like many of the artists of medieval Japan, little is known about the painter Kinkei Dōjin, who also used the name Ryōbin. This work is signed “Kinkei,” as is a companion work in the Kimiko and John Powers collection (both probably originally part of a triptych). Standard accounts of artists such as History of Painting of Japan (Honchōgashi) indicate that he studied the ink-painting styles of Shūbun, as well as the works of the Southern Song artist Mu Qi (Japanese: Mokkei). He specialized in the painting of figures and bird-andflower themes.

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