In the final stroke of the smoothly inflected brush line, the semicursive calligraphy of Bonpō’s inscription is visually united with the expansive rendering of the orchid’s supple leaves and fragile blossoms. Orchids and rocks are cherished in literati lore as symbolic of the scholar’s purity of heart, loyalty, and integrity. The “dancing pair” of the poem refers to the fragrant, small-blossomed Epidendrum to the right of the rock and the larger, more colorful Cymbidium orchids, clustered at the center.
Bedecked in garlands, the dancing pair Combines their rival fragrance. One must sip their precious dew. Who can make anew these deep-red tassels? I dashed off this poem and painting for the Honorable Cai. —Barbara Brennan Ford
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Title:Orchids and Rock
Artist:Gyokuen Bonpō (Japanese, ca. 1348–after 1420)
Period:Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Date:late 14th–early 15th century
Medium:Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:39 9/16 x 13 1/8 in. (100.5 x 33.4 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
[ Harry G. C. Packard American, Tokyo, until 1975; donated and sold to MMA].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976.
New York. Japan Society Gallery. "Japanese Calligraphy from Western Collections," October 4, 1984–January 6, 1985.
Kansas City. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. "Japanese Calligraphy from Western Collections," February 15, 1985–March 31, 1985.
Seattle Art Museum. "Japanese Calligraphy from Western Collections," May 9, 1985–July 14, 1985.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Japan," November 5, 1991–December 15, 1992.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Japan," 1998.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Enlightening Pursuits," February 28–August 5, 2001.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Sense of Place: Landscape in Japanese Art," May 8–September 8, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Paintings from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection," October 1, 2002–March 2, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Birds, Flowers, and Buddhist Paradise Imagery in Japanese Art," February 14–June 13, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," July 2–November 29, 2005.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Animals, Birds, Insects, and Marine Life in Japanese Art," June 26–November 30, 2008.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Five Thousand Years of Japanese Art: Treasures from the Packard Collection," December 17, 2009–June 10, 2010.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met," February 14 - September 27, 2015.
Tokyo Kokuritsu Bunkazai Kenkyūjo 東京国立文化財研究所, ed. Nyūyōku Metoroporitan Bijutsukan, kaiga, chōkoku ニューヨークメトロポリタン美術館，絵画・彫刻 (Painting and sculpture of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) Kaigai shozai Nihon bijutsuhin chōsa hōkoku 海外所在日本美術品調查報告 (Catalogue of Japanese art in foreign collections) 1. Tokyo: Kobunkazai Kagaku Kenkyūkai, 1991, p. 27, cat. no. 79.
By all accounts, Harry C. G. Packard (1914–1991) was no ordinary collector. He is known to have crisscrossed the United States multiple times in order to sell works of Japanese art, only to return to Japan to purchase more. He had a most unusual vision; whereas the majority of collectors, scholars, and dealers tend to focus on a particular area or medium, Packard’s ambitions were more encyclopedic, not unlike that of the Met.
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