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Exhibitions/ Art Object

Moon and Arrowroot Vine

Sakai Hōitsu (Japanese, 1761–1828)
Poem and calligraphy by Toyama Mitsuzane (Japanese, 1756–1821)
Edo period (1615–1868)
ca. 1820
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Image: 36 1/4 x 13 11/16 in. (92 x 34.7 cm) Overall with knobs: 69 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. (175.9 x 51.4 cm) Overall with mounting: 69 1/4 × 18 5/16 in. (175.9 × 46.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by Fishbein-Bender Collection
Not on view
Representations of plants and flowers became more naturalistic and botanically accurate in later Rinpa works, as seen in this atmospheric rendering of leaves and blossoms on a moonlit night. By the nineteenth century, such detailed realism reflected not only the study of natural sciences in Japan but also the advent of the Maruyama-Shijŏ school, founded by Maruyama Ŏkyo, which specialized in naturalistic drawing and painting. Rinpa compositions nonetheless remained formalized and decorative to a certain degree, and detached from any recognizable landscape setting.

The poem, by the courtier-poet Toyama Mitsuzane, is brushed in “scattered writing” (chirashigaki) and ends at the right of the composition. His signature lies just below the moon:

Fukuru yo o
hana mo urami no
iro miede
kuzu no ha terasu
tsuki zo katabuku

Like the colors of the blossoms,
my bitterness over love remains
unseen ’til the depths of night,
when the moonlight slants down
upon leaves of arrowroot vines.
[signed] Mitsuzane
—Trans. John T. Carpenter
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art," May 26, 2012–January 13, 2013.