early to mid-1600s
(Japanese, c. 1570-c. 1640)
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image: 95.8 x 38.7 cm (37 11/16 x 15 1/4 in.); Overall: 187.3 x 50.8 cm (73 3/4 x 20 in.)
Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 1958.289
This painting is based on the 1602 illustrated publication Marvelous Traces of Immortals and Buddhas (Chinese: Xianfo qizong).
Tawaraya Sōtatsu’s painting was inspired by a 1602 Chinese book that featured images of legendary Chinese Buddhist experts and Daoist sages. The monk portrayed here is Niaoge, which literally means “Bird’s Nest.” He was a Zen practitioner who favored the isolation of treetops, from which he offered advice to the perplexed. The posture of the single figure suggests a dialogue with someone below. Sōtatsu was a master of the “boneless” (mokkotsu), or un-outlined, style of ink painting that relies on layered pools of ink wash for effect.
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