Height: 1119.000 mm
Width: 431.000 mm
Asia JA JP ADD607 (1979.11-12.01)
Masuyama Sessai, Birds and Flowers, a hanging scroll painting
Edo period, AD 1791
The parrot is not native to Japan, but it was imported from as early as the ninth century, when the birds were presented to the imperial court. Parrots remained rare even during the Edo period (1600-1868), but featured at entertainment stalls in several cities. The white parrot was already a popular theme for paintings, but Sessai may well have observed one in real life at one of these stalls. Sessai was the art-name used by Masuyama Masakata (1754-1819), lord of the Nagashima fief in Ise province.
Although Sessai has here followed the thematic tradition of kachōga (bird-and-flower painting), and used conventional monochrome brushwork on the tree, he has adopted a sharply empirical style for the parrot. An inscription on the box by the artist Tomioka Tessai (1836-1924) confirms that it was this desire to use the techniques of realism that led Sessai towards the style of the professional Chinese painter, Shen Nampin (active in Japan 1731-33). Shen Nampin's pupils and followers in the so-called 'Nagasaki style' quickly spread the vogue for meticulous bird-and-flower subjects to all major Japanese cities.
The inscription reads 'Kanoto i shunjitsu sha Sessai' ('Painted by Sessai on a spring day, 1791'), and the seals read 'Nagashima kō in' ('Seal of the lord of Nagashima') and 'Sessai'.
I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)