Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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猿猴捉月図屏風
Gibbons in a Landscape

Artist:
Sesson Shūkei (ca. 1504–ca. 1589)
Period:
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Date:
ca. 1570
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Pair of six-panel screens; ink on paper
Dimensions:
Image (each screen): 62 in. x 11 ft. 5 in. (157.5 x 348 cm)
Classification:
Screens
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Vincent Astor Foundation, Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, and Florence and Herbert Irving Gifts, 1992
Accession Number:
1992.8.1, .2
Not on view
The gibbon, native to the forested mountains of southern China, is known in Japan only through painting and poetry. In literary contexts, its cry is associated with the elevated spirit of solitude, and in Daoist lore with a superior life force. Japanese Zen monks treasured images of gibbons painted by the Chinese monk Muqi (ca. 1210–after 1269), and by the late fifteenth century paintings of gibbons in the manner of this artist had become a favored subject for screen decoration. Here a chain of gibbons is shown reaching futilely for a reflection of the moon, a symbol of enlightenment. This scene illustrates a fundamental Zen paradox: if one is deliberately or overly anxiously trying to attain enlightenment, then that spiritual path will not lead to true enlightenment.

As reflected in the subject matter of many of his paintings, Sesson was a Zen monk-artist. He was a highly learned and prolific painter who studied a wide array of earlier Chinese ink painting styles and played a major role in the creation of a distinctive Japanese style of so-called Zen ink painting.
Private collection (sale; Christie's, NY, Oct. 24, 1991, Lot. 852, sold to Naumann) ; [ Klaus F. Naumann , Tokyo, 1992; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Japan," November 5, 1991–December 15, 1992.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tea Ceremony Wares of Mino: Shino and Oribe," 1992.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art in Early Japan," 1999–2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Blossoms of Many Colors: A Selection from the Permanent Collection of Japanese Art," March 21, 2000–August 9, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Enlightening Pursuits," February 28, 2001–August 5, 2001.

Chiba City Museum of Art. "Sesson ten: sengoku jidai no sūpā ekisentorikku," January 26, 2002–March 3, 2002.

Tokyo. The Shoto Museum of Art. "Sesson ten: sengoku jidai no sūpā ekisentorikku," April 2, 2002–May 12, 2002.

Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art. "Sesson ten: sengoku jidai no sūpā ekisentorikku," June 18, 2002–July 28, 2002.

Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art. "Sesson ten: sengoku jidai no sūpā ekisentorikku," August 10, 2002–September 23, 2002.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan II," March 22, 2003–September 21, 2003.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Birds, Flowers, and Buddhist Paradise Imagery in Japanese Art," February 14, 2004–June 13, 2004.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," July 2, 2005–November 29, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Graceful Gestures: Two Decades of Collecting Japanese Art," 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Drama of Eyes and Hands: Sharaku's Portraits of Kabuki Actors," September 20, 2007–March 24, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscapes in Japanese Art," June 24, 2010–November 7, 2010.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–January 22, 2017.

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