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Stag amid Autumn Flowers

Mori Sosen Japanese

Not on view

In the Japanese poetic tradition, waka (thirty-one-syllable court verse) often invokes the image of a solitary deer traipsing through fallen leaves or autumn flowers as a metaphor for lost love. Here, a lonesome-seeming stag has paused on a moonlit evening, as if to listen for the call of its mate. The grasses, leaves, and white fujibakama flowers (Eupatorium japonicum), associated with mid-autumn in Japanese poetry, are rendered in the naturalistic yet still decorative style of the Maruyama-Shijō school. Sosen built his reputation on realistic depictions of monkeys, deer, and other animals. His fame was so closely tied to his monkey paintings that in 1807 he changed the first character of his art name, so 祖, meaning “ancestor,” to the homophonic so 狙, meaning “monkey.”

Stag amid Autumn Flowers, Mori Sosen (Japanese, 1747–1821), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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