Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) Late Muromachi Period, 15th century
Lot 344*
Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506)
Late Muromachi Period, 15th century
Sold for £48,000 (US$ 80,679) inc. premium
Auction Details
Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) Late Muromachi Period, 15th century
Lot Details
Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506)
Late Muromachi Period, 15th century
Kakejiku, in ink on paper, depicting a tenaga-zaru (long-armed gibbon) hanging from the branch of a willow, reaching down for the unseen moon in the water, signed Sesshu hitsu with red pot seal Sesshu; with double wood storage boxes. 103cm x 43.8cm (40½in x 17¼in). (3).


  • 柳猿猴図 雪舟等楊筆 一幅 紙本墨画 室町時代後期(15世紀)

    Published and illustrated: Bo Taike Shozo-hin Nyusatsu Mokuroku (Auction catalogue of the property from an anonymous wealthy family), Tokyo Bijutsu Club, 1940, pl.22 and illustrated and edited by Tanaka Ichimatsu and Matsushita Takaaki, Nakamura Tanio and Kanazawa Hiroshi ed., Sesshu, Gagyo Shusei (A Collection of Sesshu Paintings), Kodansha, Tokyo, 1984, p.313, pl.29.

    As a model for his painting Sesshu also chose the Song artist Muqi, at the time highly influential in Japan. An almost roguish sense of humour emanates from this charming scroll of a monkey attempting to reach in vain for the moon reflected in the water. The gibbon represented here also closely followed Muqi's style, especially striking is the frontal view of the monkey's almost human face, indicated with a few vigorous dots and lines. Its bristly pelt is rendered with a dry brush in dense hatchings.

    Extant paintings by Sesshu are rare. Compare with a pair of screens attributed to the artist, depicting the rare pictorial combination of hawks and several monkeys, whose faces are similarly imbued with a human contenance, perched and swinging from trees in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, exhibited at the Kyoto National Museum, 500th Anniversary Exhibition: Sesshu - Master of Ink and Brush, Exhibition Catalogue, Kyoto, 2002, pp.156-157, pl.102.

    Born in Bicchu Province (present-day Okayama Prefecture), at the age of eleven, the artist entered a Zen monastery. He moved to Kyoto, lived in the Shokoku-ji and studied painting under Shubun (dates unknown). Patronized by the Ouchi family, he ran an atelier named Unkoku-an in Yamaguchi, and joined a trading trip to China to study at Chinese Zen temples from 1467 to 1469, where Chinese majestic nature influenced his painting. After he returned to Japan, he also opened an atelier in Oita, and traveled widely in Japan and painted actual Japanese scenes. He studied Chinese Song and Yuan paintings, especially those by Xia Gui, Li Tang, Liang Kai, and Yujiang, but developed his own style, expression and innonative dimensions.

    This classic Zen Buddhist allegory of a gibbon reaching for the moon reflected in the water, illustrates the illusoriness of all perception, with the image of the monkey symbolising the uncomprehending foolishness of human beings. The theme of gibbon itself was brought to Japan from Chinese Southern Song Dynasty Cha'an adherents; in particular Muqi's (virtually none of whose paintings remain in China) triptych preserved in the Daitoku-ji in Kyoto, which had a profound influence on the subsequent development of ink painting in Japan. The Japanese painters afterwards, from the Middle Ages to the early modern age, were greatly influenced by the depiction of gibbons by Muqi with soft bristly pelt and light ink round body without contour. The same subject was painted by Hasegawa Tohaku (1539-1610).
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