Exhibitions/ Art Object

Duck Flying Over Irises

Tawaraya Sōtatsu (Japanese, died ca. 1640)
Edo period (1615–1868)
probably 1630s
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Image: 40 1/2 x 19 3/16 in. (102.9 x 48.7 cm)
Overall (with rollers): 75 1/2 x 20 in. (191.8 x 50.8 cm)
Overall with knobs: 75 1/2 x 21 3/4 in. (191.8 x 55.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gitter-Yelen Collection
Not on view
As part of their standard repertory, the Sōtatsu studio of the early seventeenth century made ink paintings of birds (cranes, herons, ducks, and domestic fowl) as well as other auspicious animals (dogs, tigers, oxen, and rabbits, to name just a few). A representative work in this mode here shows a duck soaring over a cluster of irises. Both the bird and the flowers are painted in one of Sōtatsu’s trademark mediums and styles: a monochrome ink painting employing the tarashikomi (“dripping in”) technique. Sōtatsu’s stylized and streamlined rendering suggests a desire to eliminate superfluous detail, even the duck’s webbed feet. Artists of subsequent generations, including Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) and his successors, made paintings of ducks a Rinpa standard, and the birds appear in such famous drawing manuals as One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin (Kōrin hyakuzu).

The scroll has a signature reading “Sōtatsu Hokkyō” (Sōtatsu holding the title of “Bridge of the Law”), and is impressed with the seal “Taiseiken.” Both signature and seal are thought to have been used by the master and his studio.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Birds in the Art of Japan," February 2, 2013–July 28, 2013.