Shibata Zeshin, Eagle in the Snow, a hanging scroll painting

Late Edo period - early Meiji era, 2nd half of the 19th century AD

The eagle had succeeded in catching what looks like a fox, but perhaps because the prey was too big, perhaps because it struggled too much, the animal managed to escape. The bird has twisted around on itself to watch as the fox plummets into the icy water. A couple of feathers, dislodged in the struggle, float slowly down. Snow piled on the branches of the pine-tree has been shaken off by the disturbance and falls down like a waterfall, adding to the strong sense of movement pervading the picture.

The painting depicts a scene from nature during the winter season when all animals find it hard to survive. Zeshin (1807-91) lived and worked during the period of the Meiji Restoration, and perhaps the harsh struggle seen here serves as an allegory of the upheavals Japan was undergoing as it opened its doors fully to the West.

The signature is all but hidden within the black ink of the cliff; it reads 'Zeshin'. The seal beneath reads 'Tairyūkyo'.

Find in the collection online

More information


I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hiz┼Ź Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)


Height: 1098.000 mm
Width: 415.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD339 (1950.11-11.019)


Gift of the Trustees of the late James Martin White


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore