Length: 1316.000 mm
Width: 497.000 mm
Brooke Sewell Fund
Asia JA JP ADD585 (1979.1-29.01)
Mori Ransai, Birds and Flowers, a hanging scroll painting
Mid-Edo period, late 18th century AD
A pair of long-tailed birds are perched on the branches of an aronia tree (Malus micromalus) in this typical example of kachōga (bird-and-flower painting). A composition of long-tailed birds (such as birds-of-paradise), aronia, and rocks was common in Chinese painting, but here there are roses instead of rocks. The birds seem to be imaginary rather than any specific species.
Ransai (1740-1801) was a painter from Echigo province (modern Niigata Prefecture), who moved to Nagasaki, where he received instruction in the realistic, colourful painting style of Shen Nampin, a professional Chinese artist active in Nagasaki from 1731 to 1733. A work by Nampin on the same subject also survives (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The sharpness of the colours, the volumetric shading on the petals, and the brushwork of the tree are all characteristic of this style.
Ransai lived and worked after 1774 in Osaka, and later in Edo (modern Tokyo). In the past there has been confusion about the identity of the artist of works signed 'Ransai'. However, for several years during the early 1780s, after arriving in nearby Kyoto, the artist Gan Ku (1749-1838) also used the art-name Ransai. He too painted in the Nampin style during this early period of his career, and in fact the inscription on the box of the present work mistakenly attributes the scroll to Gan Ku.
The signature reads 'Ransai' and the seals read 'Meikaku', 'Kyūkō' (alternate art names) and 'Ransai'.
I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)