Height: 1199.000 mm
Width: 1773.000 mm
Asia JA JP ADD90 (1934.7-14.01)
Tani Bunchō, Dragon in Clouds, a hanging scroll painting
Late Edo period, about late AD 1820s
Dragons hold a prominent place in Chinese mythology, where they control the rain and the clouds, while tigers rule the winds. The dragon was identified with yang (the male principle; light, moist, dominant) and the tiger with yin (the female principle; dark, dry, recessive). The tenets of Daoism were also conveyed through such abstract, symbolic motifs, and the dragon can also be an expression of spiritual power. Clouds were seen as an embodiment of qi (Japanese: ki), the energy or vital force of the cosmos.
Bunchō (1763-1840) was one of the most important and influential Japanese painters of his time. He was extremely eclectic in his painting style, and he mastered Chinese painting techniques of the Song through to the Qing dynasties from imported works and painting manuals. Bunchō painted many large-scale commissions on screens and fusuma (sliding doors) in mansions and temples, and unusually large hanging scrolls, such as this.
The signature reads 'Bunchō hitsu' ('From the brush of Bunchō') and the seal reads ‘Gagakusai in' ('Seal of the Studio for Studying Painting').
From 1999 to 2000 the painting underwent thorough conservation in the Hirayama Studio at The British Museum. It was relined and completely remounted using materials supplied directly from Japan.