Iris and Mandarin Ducks


Sakai Hoitsu ( Japanese, 1761 - 1828 )

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General Description

Sakai Hoitsu was a Buddhist monk from a distinguished family who painted numerous works in an eclectic style. One of his most important themes was a series of seasonal painting, of which the Museum's scroll is an example. Two mandarin ducks, symbols of married fidelity, sit on a stone beneath a clump of swamp iris. The painting has the same asymmetric design as Rosetsu's tiger, in which an empty left side of the picture is balanced by a filled right side [1972.13]. There is no illusion of depth.

The background is neutral, suggesting the universal background of nature, which underlies all life. A few spots of brilliant color, such as the dark purple iris flowers, add intensity to the muted painting. The brushwork is very soft, dissolving into the silk in broad washes, yet is completely controlled. It is a gentle and peaceful picture of harmonious nature, made vital by the pure lines and by the springing swords of the iris leaves.

Excerpt from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 91.

Web Resources

  • Kyoto National Museum
    Read further about the style of Sakai Hoitsu and the artistic lineage his paintings reflect.