Mori Sosen Japanese

Not on view

This tour de force of avian painting captures the subtle coloration and soft plumage of a cluster of seven silkies, a breed of chicken known for its fluffy, fur-like feathers. Also striking is the dark blue flesh of their wattles and earlobes, and the presence of five toes, rather than four, as most chickens have. In Japanese they are called ukokkei (Chinese: wuguji), which literally means "chickens with raven-black bones." They were raised to be eaten, and in China soup made from silkies is believed to have curative properties. Marco Polo, during his travels in Asia in the thirteenth century, wrote of encountering such peculiar furry chickens: "There is a strange thing there which I needs tell you ... they have a kind of fowls which have no feathers, but hair only, like a cat’s fur."

Silkies, Mori Sosen (Japanese, 1747–1821), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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