Photo © Photography: John Tsantes and Neil Greentree © Robert Feinberg
Gallery Text

The sandalwood tree towers over the water,

And casts its shadow over the curiously shaped rocks

This traveler wears a lotus leaf for a hat and crosses the bridge

To visit the gods and immortals, where is he headed?

This poem by Confucian scholar Murase Kōtei (1746–1818), inscribed at the top of Crossing a Mountain Stream by a Bridge, directs our attention to the lone traveler who crosses the bridge in the foreground of the painting. The mountains that tower over him seem to lean away from his direction of travel. For much of his life, Buson himself was a poet—it was only out of financial necessity that he began to paint as he got older. He practiced short-form haikai poetry (commonly known as haiku), and his paintings are accordingly rooted not in the literati language of classical Chinese poetry but in the abbreviated imagery of this domestic genre, which celebrates the minutiae of everyday life. The persona of the solitary traveler features in some of Buson’s most memorable poems and paintings, moving through landscapes characterized by intense attention to the details of season, climate, and time of day.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
TL42147.52
People
Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村, Japanese (Settsu 1716 - 1784)
Title
Crossing a Mountain Stream by a Bridge
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
Date
c. 1779-84
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Period
Edo period, 1615-1868
Culture
Japanese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/20492
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Hanging scroll; ink and light color on silk
Dimensions
painting proper: H. 100 × W. 34.2 cm (39 3/8 × 13 7/16 in.)
overall mounting, including roller ends and suspension cord: H. 198.8 × W. 55.8 cm (78 1/4 × 21 15/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: by Murase Kōtei (1746–1819):
    迢々来纈樹頭泉
    影落怪嵒乱石辺
    借問渓橋荷笠者
    不知何処訪神仙
    The sandalwood tree towers over the water,
    And casts its shadow over the curiously shaped rocks
    This traveler wears a lotus leaf for a hat and crosses the bridge
    To visit the gods and immortals, where is he headed?
  • signature: 栲亭之熙題 [Brushed by Kōtei Shiki]
  • seal: upper right of inscription; rectangular, relief: indecipherable
  • seal: upper; square, intaglio: 源之熙印 [Gen Shiki in]
  • seal: lower; square, relief: 君績 [Kunseki]
  • signature: 謝寅 [Sha-in]
  • seal: upper; intaglio: 謝長康印 [Sha Chōkō-in]
  • seal: lower; intaglio: 春星 [Shunsei]
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
TL42147.52
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Yosa Buson meisakuten : tokubetsuten, botsugo nihyakunen kinen, exh. cat., Yamato Bunkakan (Nara, 1983), p. 53, plate 19

Buson gafu, Mainichi Shinbun Sha. (Tokyo, Japan, 1984), plate 28

Sasaki Jōhei, Buson zenshu vol. VI, Kodansha Publisher (Tokyo, Japan, 1992), #466, p. 315

Kōno Motoaki, Shincho Nihon bijutsu bunko: Yosa Buson, Shinchosha (Tokyo, Japan, 1996), illus. #27

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 80, cat. 28

Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 55, fig. 42

Rachel Saunders, ed., Catalogue of the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, brochure, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, 2021), pp. 36-37, cat. 23

Exhibition History

Yosa no Buson, Yamato Bunkakan, Nara, 10/07/1883 - 11/13/1983

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/04/2015 - 11/29/2015

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 06/06/2021

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu