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Rooster Hen & Hydrangea

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Rooster Hen & Hydrangea

18th Century
55 1/8 x 33 1/2 in. (140.02 x 85.09 cm)

Ito Jakuchu, Japanese, (1715–1800)

Object Type: Scroll
Curator: Tony Henson, Shin'enKan Collection
Creation Place: Asia, Japan, Honshu
Medium and Support: Color on Silk
Credit Line: Gift of the Etsuko and Joe Price Collection
Accession Number: SHIN.213.65
A most magnificent example of a large scale painting in bright colors.
Current Location: Green St. Warehouse : 2nd Floor : Storeroom 1

Shin'enkan, the name used by Mr. Price for his collection, is directly borrowed from the studio name of the unique painter Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800) who worked in Kyoto during the Edo period. When Mr. Price began his involvement with Japanese painting, one of his first three acquisitions was an ink painting by Jakuchu ("Grapevines"). From that moment, he was enchanted with this peculiar style of bird-and-flower painting and went on to collect many superb works of art. Among these, "Rooster, Hen and Hydrangeas" is a most magnificent example of a large scale painting in bright colors having entered the collection in 1969. Regarding its acquisition, there is a personal and very special remembrance. Namely, that year as a graduate student of art history, I (Tadashi Kobayashi) had recently joined the staff at the research Office at Tokyo University. Mr. Nobuo Tsuji, my senior, had just borrowed this particular scroll and "Mandarin Ducks Amid Snow-Covered Reeds" from an antique dealer, giving us the opportunity to closely examine the two paintings. At that time, Mr. Tsuji announced that these Jakuchu paintings had recently returned to Japan in the possession of some American (actually, Mr. Price). He said that the current state of affairs was such that masterpieces by Jakuchu, the first of the Edo period "eccentrics" or uniquely talented and inspired artists, were flowing from the country one by one, and that the situation was not deplored by the Japanese people who simply did not understand the paintings' value. Resigned to the fact that these works would not return to Japan for a second time, we felt especially blessed by the efforts of Mr. Tsuji who gave us this parting opportunity. Our fears were needless for as early as six years later, Mr. Price himself brought the works back to Japan and with exceptional good will loaned the paintings for the Jakuchu exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum where I was then employed. Even later, the opportunity for careful examination and intense appreciation of these works would be generously given to the many Japanese who visited the Shin'enkan in Oklahoma.

In tracing the provenance of this particular work, it once belonged to the temple Higashi Hongan-ji along with the painting "Sparrows Playing in the Snow" (private collection, Tokyo), [Akiyama Teruo, "An Introduction to the Study of Jakuchu"]. In 1768, the petition by the head priest of this temple to borrow the series "Doshoku sai-e" ("Colorful Realm of Living Beings") from the temple Shokoku-ji was granted, and the paintings were viewed on loan at Higashi Hongan-ji. As Mr. Nobuo Tsuji has already pointed out, "Rooster, Hen and Hydrangeas" closely resembles one of these thirty paintings, "Rose, Mallows and Fowl," in every aspect including subject matter, composition, style, and size. Higashi Hongan-ji already owned Jakuchu's "Pair of Phoenixes and the Rising Sun" (1755, Imperial Household Collection), and so it is very possible that "Rooster, Hen and Hydrangeas" was produced as an outright commission by the head priest who had a special fondness for paintings by Jakuchu.

Compared with the "Doshoku sai-e" works completed by autumn 1759, "Rooster, Hen and Hydrangeas" is much more realistic in its conformity to nature, and the areas showing careful restraint in linework are a bit more spontaneous. Therefore, it can be surmised that the painting was produced a little earlier. Based upon this information together with an analysis of the style of Jakuchu's signature, Mr. Tsuji narrows the range of its date of production to 1756 or 1757. Going back to the previously mentioned "Pair of Phoenixes and the Rising Sun," the years from 1755 to 1757 mark the point in time when Jakuchu, then entering his forties, had just left his family business. Thus there can be no doubt that "Rooster, Hen and Hydrangeas" is a magnum opus of a "time of great happiness (kyoshin godo)."

In the center of the left hand side, written conscientiously in a somewhat childlike manner is the artist's signature, "Painted by Jakuchu koji (lay monk), To Jokin, of Heian-jo (Kyoto) at the humble studio in the Nishiki (Brocade) neighborhood." Below are two large seals, the round intaglio reads, "Jokin," and the square relief reads, "Tansei wa rosho ni itaru wo shirazu."
- Kobayashi

My records show it was purchased in 1965, not in 1969 as reported above in the Kyoto Shoin catalogue.

There are no outlines, and no two brush strokes ever cross, leaving therefore only one layer of paint anywhere on its surface; most of the petals of the flowers in the foreground and the light part of the tail feathers are not even painted, but are just the color of the pure untouched silk. This virtuoso display of artistic skill is still insignificant compared to just the pure visual beauty of the painting. This technique of going beyond "skill" is true of all Jakuchu colored paintings.

This scroll has a chop mark stamped on the left hand side.

These are conservation notes with a link.

Creation Place
Ancient Japan creation place notes

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Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:

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Provenance History
  • Owner Name: Joe Price
    Role: collector
    Dates: 2/28/94

  • Owner Name: dddd

Acquisition List
This object was included in the following acquisitions:

Bibliography List
This object has the following bibliographic references:
  • Money L. Hickman. The Paintings of Jakuchu. The Paintings of Jakuchu The Asia Society Galleries. New York, 1989
    Page Number: page 57, Figure Number: figure 24

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Image of Rooster in Snow
Rooster in Snow


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