Millet and Sparrows


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.

Millet and Sparrows, Geiai (active mid-16th century), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.