Tiger and bamboo


  • Catalogue text

    An airborne tiger comes bounding towards us, claws outstretched, with a mischievous grin on its face. In the foreground, a few stalks of bamboo give way to seemingly giant tiger tracks. One would expect the tiger to be among the bamboo, as in other paintings of this well-loved subject, however, our surprise comes as we look up and see the tiger in the distance.

    Zeshin has painted the elements very loosely in ink with just a touch of reddish wash on the tiger. The simplification of the composition down to two or three elements as well as leaving large blank areas is characteristically Zeshin. For example, in Butterfly and Flowering Plant in the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Zeshin paints one of a pair of handscrolls with only a small butterfly making its way down to the flowers on the other scroll [published in Link, The Art of Shibata Zeshin, 40-41]. The similarity to that painting in terms of the composition and the style of the signature makes it likely that Tiger and Bamboo dates to Zeshin’s middle period (1832-40). The seal reading ‘Koma’, however, has heretofore been believed to have only been used on Zeshin’s lacquer paintings, as the name comes from lacquer artist Koma Kansai II, Zeshin’s teacher [Ibid., 62. The seal here most closely resembles that reproduced on page 191, no. 34, which is exactly the same size (3.0 x 1.8cm) as the Ashmolean’s painting. In addition, the silk has been examined and appears to be the type of tight weave used by Zeshin for his other paintings on silk. I would like to thank Ephraim Jose for his assessment of the painting’s silk]. It is the author’s wish that the publication of Tiger and Bamboo here will prompt further study to determine how this painting may fit into the chronology of Zeshin’s career.

    Paintings of tigers and bamboo, often paired with dragons and clouds, have been a common subject in ink painting since the Muromachi period, when Chinese ink paintings of this theme entered the collection of the Ashikaga shoguns. While the compositions vary to a great extent, Zeshin’s painting with its footprints and flying tiger is uncommonly humorous.

    In: Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003)

Further reading

Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003), no. 40 on p. 144, p. 85, illus. p. 145

Reference URL

q-seffron-icon q-white-icon pluse-seffron-icon pluse-white-icon minus-seffron-icon minus-white-icon close-seffron-icon close-white-icon close-black-icon prv-gry-arrow prv-arrow print-seffron-icon print-black-icon next-arrow next-gry-arrow next-white-arrow up-arrow-black up-arrow black-up-arrow black-down-arrow white-up-arrow white-down-arrow hr-list-gry-icon hr-list-white-icon vr-list-gry-icon vr-list-white-icon eye-icon zoomin-icon zoomout-icon fullview-icon contact-black-icon contact-seffron-icon basket-seffron-icon basket-black-icon share-black-icon share-seffron-icon go-arrow search-white-icon